published Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013

Tennessee, Georgia step up DUI checks for Fourth of July

Tennessee State Troopers and Red Bank police officers stop cars on Cherokee Boulevard at a safety and sobriety checkpoint to check for seat belts and intoxication.
Tennessee State Troopers and Red Bank police officers stop cars on Cherokee Boulevard at a safety and sobriety checkpoint to check for seat belts and intoxication.
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NASHVILLE -- Mixing food, family, fireworks and festivities over the long Fourth of July holiday is fine, but Tennessee and Georgia officials say they're on the lookout this week for holiday revelers who combine drinking and driving.

Law enforcement officials in both states say they plan to step up DUI enforcement over the holiday while Georgia is targeting drunken boaters under its relatively new boating-under-the-influence law.

Tennessee Safety and Homeland Security Commissioner Bill Gibbons announced Monday the state Highway Patrol, starting at 6 p.m. Wednesday, will implement "No Refusal" crackdowns in Hamilton and Franklin counties and 13 other counties across the state.

The no-refusal policy, based on a 2012 state law, permits law enforcement to obtain court warrants to draw blood samples from suspected impaired drivers.

"Drunk driving is a threat to public safety, and this specialized enforcement gives us another tool to combat impaired driving and reduce fatal crashes in Tennessee," Gibbons said.

The state is implementing sobriety, driver's license and seat belt checkpoints, bar and tavern checks and "saturation patrols" across the state with the help of local law enforcement.

Georgia's Operation Zero Tolerance campaign began June 21 and runs through July 7. The Georgia Governor's Office of Highway Safety says it's part of a national effort to combat drunken driving during one of the deadliest holidays.

The program targets impaired drivers through concentrated patrols and sobriety checkpoints manned by police officers, sheriff's deputies and state troopers.

Meanwhile, the governor's highway safety office this year will be partnering with Georgia's Department of Natural Resources to enforce the state's new BUI law that went into effect on May 15. This is the first summer where 0.08 will be the legal blood alcohol limit for both boaters and drivers.

Tennessee officials say 21 people died in 17 crashes during the 2012 July 4 holiday period. Of those deaths, 10 or 47.6 percent, were alcohol-related.

Georgia says it has averaged 88 alcohol-impaired crashes for the July 3-to-July 5 travel period.

Contact staff writer Andy Sher at 615-255-0550 or asher@timesfreepress.com.

about Andy Sher...

Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...

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