By Amy Powell, December 27, 2013
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LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Local law enforcement has a new tool to crack down on drunken drivers over the New Year's holiday, and drivers could face instant drug tests at DUI checkpoints.
The L.A. City Attorney's Office received a half-million-dollar federal grant to expand use of a device called the Drager 5000. A swab of saliva is taken from a driver, and within minutes the device analyzes the presence of cocaine, marijuana and other substances. A second saliva swab is taken for independent testing.
"We anticipate making a large number of DUI for alcohol- and drugs-related arrests on New Year's Eve," said LAPD Commander Andrew Smith. "We don't want to, but we're prepared to do so."
Officials say the crackdown includes medical marijuana.
"Even one who is legitimately permitted to have medical marijuana has to be very careful not to be driving under the influence, even of that lawful medication," said Feuer.
Statistics show that deaths and injuries caused by alcohol-related traffic crashes rise 86 percent during the holiday season. During the two-week period last year, the city attorney's office prosecuted nearly 600 DUI cases.
The federal money will also pay for two extra assistant district attorneys who will concentrate on DUI prosecution.
The LAPD says it will increase the number of DUI checkpoints leading up to the new year, and extra motorcycle and traffic officers will be patrolling the streets looking for impaired drivers.
"We want to make sure everybody gets the message loud and clear, that there will be a zero-tolerance policy for the police department for people driving under the influence of narcotics or drugs," said Smith.
Authorities say you should make a plan before you go out to celebrate the new year. Have a designated driver, or arrange other transportation, or walk.
Thinking of drinking on New Year’s Eve? Then don’t drive, warn local cops
By Christina Villacorte, December 27, 2013
LAPD officer Kamaron Sardar checks the numbers on a printout while demonstrating the Drager 5000 drug test device during a press conference to warn the public of the dangers of impaired driving during the holidays as well as detail efforts to aggressively prosecute DUI cases through a grant fundprogram December 27, 2013 in Los Angeles, CA. LAPD officers will be using the device to test suspected drunk drivers at checkpoints.edCelebrate the New Year, but don’t drive while “buzzed,” or you will get busted — or worse.
That was the stern warning Friday from law enforcement officials, who plan to be out in force keeping streets safe as 2013 turns into 2014.
“We want to make sure everybody gets the message loud and clear,” Los Angeles Police Department spokesman Cmdr. Andrew Smith said. “There will be a zero-tolerance policy for people driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.”
Citing analysis by the Automobile Club of Southern California, City Attorney Mike Feuer said alcohol-related deaths and injuries are 86 percent higher during the holiday season compared with the rest of the year. During the two-week holiday season last year, his office filed almost 600 DUI cases.
Drug-related vehicular accidents also spike, with tragic consequences, he noted. “It’s impossible to quantify the effects on a family whose loved one isn’t coming home because someone has made the irresponsible decision to drink or use drugs and then drive,” Feuer said. “That decision will have irreversible consequences for many other people — and for the perpetrator.”
Mothers Against Drunk Driving executive director Patricia Rillera said the advocacy group talks to those families every day, helping them cope with their grief.
“We understand that alcohol is a part of a lot of festivities, especially during this particular time of the year, but please drink responsibly,” she added.
Driving under the influence has already caused 2,087 traffic collisions and claimed 16 lives within city limits, according to the LAPD.
“Don’t be one of those statistics that ends up in the morgue or ends up in jail because we’ll have plenty of officers looking for drunk drivers,” the police spokesman said.
Anticipating many New Year’s Eve revelers will be high or drunk while behind the wheel, LAPD and the California Highway Patrol will set up sobriety checkpoints and have “maximum deployment” of traffic officers, motorcycle officers and jailers to lock up those considered a risk to themselves and others.
Thanks to a $500,000 federal grant, some of those sobriety checkpoints will be equipped with new technology capable of checking a driver’s saliva — instead of blood, which is the usual method — for alcohol, cocaine, marijuana, amphetamines, methamphetamines, opiates, methodone, narcotic analgesics and benzodiazepine. It’s more convenient, less invasive and less expensive and also provides immediate results that are just as reliable.
Even legally prescribed medication such as medical marijuana, Vicodan and Xanax can cause impairment and should not be taken before driving.
Deputy City Attorney Michelle de Casas warned that even a first DUI comes with steep penalties. “We’re talking in the range of about $5,000 to $8,000 just in terms of fines and fees that you have to pay for ... and this is assuming that you’re not already paying for a lawyer,” she said.
A conviction may also result in the revocation of a driver’s license. Those who will be drinking are advised to have a designated driver, use public transportation or sleep over at their party.