DUI patrols ramp up for Labor Day weekend

September 1, 2018

Labor Day weekend is the traditional end of summer. Statistics show it’s also a time when the rate of people driving under the influence increases.

According to information from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Montana ranks first in per capita highway deaths involving impaired drivers with 9.15 per 100,000 residents.

From 2013 to 2017, there were 42 deaths on Montana highways and roads between Aug. 17 through the holiday weekend. Sixty percent of those fatalities involved an impaired driver.

According to statistics from the Montana Department of Transportation, Flathead County ranked No. 2 in overall roadway fatalities from 2007 to 2016. Fifty-five percent of those involved impaired drivers.

Yellowstone County ranked No. 1 with 194 deaths, 51 percent involving impaired motorists, on its roads during the same time period. Missoula County was third with 164 deaths and 54 percent impaired.

In response, the transportation department is asking those who do drink to not drive and to select a designated driver.

It also asks those that see someone getting behind the wheel after drinking to report impaired drivers by calling 911,

Law enforcement officers across the state are running increased patrols in an attempt to prevent or curtail drunk drivers this weekend.

“We will have more officers on the road this weekend,” Trooper David Mills said Friday.

Many people may not realize just how expensive it can be to be arrested for driving impaired. The fine is 1,000 for a first offense, 2,000 for a second, and 5,000 for a third.

According to the Department of Transportation, it’s not uncommon to spend up to $10,000 for a DUI in Montana. There are fines and court fees, attorney fees, mandatory drug/alcohol treatment, increases in insurance rates and losing out on jobs because of a DUI record.

Additional costs can include civil lawsuits from the damages that may have been caused and medical bills for people involved.

In addition to law enforcement efforts, some area businesses are involved in an effort to prevent impaired driving.

AAA’s Tipsy Tow service will be available in Kalispell and Polson starting at 6 p.m. Monday, Sept. 3, through 6 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 4. The service offers motorists a safe alternative over the Labor Day weekend to getting behind the wheel if they’ve had too much to drink.

Tipsy Tow provides a free ride home and vehicle tow of up to 10 miles for any driver, not just AAA members. For mileage beyond this, motorists are charged a standard towing rate.

To use the service, drivers, potential passengers, party hosts, bartenders, restaurant managers or anyone who wants to ensure a safe ride home for an intoxicated motorist should call 1-800-AAA-HELP (1-800-222-4357) during the service period and state that they need a Tipsy Tow.

Services will not be provided to motorists requesting a tow to another drinking establishment, repair facility or any other location other than their home or a hotel.

Reporter Scott Shindledecker can be reached at (406) 758-4441 or sshindledecker@dailyinterlake.com.