Police across the State have stepped up efforts this holiday season to crack down on drunk drivers. Two recent incidents illustrate just how serious the problem can be.
*Amy Locane, a former “Melrose Place” actress and Hopewell, NJ, resident, was indicted recently on charges of killing a Montgomery Township woman and injuring her husband as a result of a motor vehicle accident in which the actress allegedly was driving under the influence. This accident followed an earlier hit-and-run accident in Princeton, NJ, involving the actress. Locane faces a decades-long prison term if convicted. (1)
*A resident of Freehold, NJ, Samuel Perez Ramirez, pleaded guilty to driving while intoxicated in an accident that resulted in the death of his own father, a passenger who was ejected from the vehicle when it struck another car after failing to stop at a stop sign. Ramirez’s blood-alcohol level at the time of the accident was reportedly three times over the legal limit. (2)
Although these accidents occurred in June and May of this yea, respectively, the number of celebrations and office parties during the holiday season traditionally increases the likelihood of people driving under the influence. During last year’s holiday season, 189 people died in New Jersey as the result of 179 alcohol-related accidents, which represents 32% of the 584 fatalities reported in the State during 2009. National statistics show that 10,839 people were killed in alcohol-related highway accidents last year. (3)
To combat this, police departments throughout the State are participating in “Over the Limit, Under Arrest,” a campaign aimed at reducing DWI accidents through public education and increased patrols and sobriety checkpoints. (3)
Despite stiffer penalties, which include a $1,000 surcharge drivers are required to pay to the State for three consecutive years following their convictions, reports show the number of DWI arrests has not decreased significantly. According to a recent report, 27,838 DWI arrests were made last year and, although it was the fewest number of arrests recorded these past 10 years, it represents only a 3% decline from 2008. In fact, the number of DWI arrests has remained fairly steady throughout the past decade, having peaked just short of 30,500 in 2007. (4)
The “Over the Limit, Under Arrest” efforts will run through January 2, 2011.