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LANSING (WWJ) – Michigan State Police say nearly 100 agencies in 20 counties will be conducting extra patrols over the long Thanksgiving weekend, Nov. 21 through Nov. 25, to ensure motorists are driving safe and sober this holiday.
Police say patrols will especially be beefed up the night before Thanksgiving, which is unofficially known as the “biggest bar night of the year.”
Last year, 166 people were arrested for alcohol-related offenses between 6 p.m. Wednesday and 4 a.m. Thanksgiving morning, according to police, and 51 of those motorists had a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .17 or higher.
On an average Wednesday night in November, police say about 74 people are arrested for alcohol-related offenses.
“Thanksgiving is one the busiest travel times of the year and we want to make sure everyone gets to their holiday gatherings safely,” said Michael Prince, Director of the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning. “Extra officers will be out strictly enforcing drunk driving laws. Motorists need to designate a sober driver before drinking or take a cab or bus home.”
Agencies in the following counties are participating in the Thanksgiving drunk driving patrols: Berrien, Calhoun, Chippewa, Delta, Genesee, Houghton, Ingham, Jackson, Kent, Macomb, Marquette, Monroe, Oakland, Ogemaw, Ottawa, Saginaw, St. Clair, Van Buren, Washtenaw and Wayne.
During last year’s Thanksgiving holiday weekend, seven people were killed on Michigan roadways. According to police, none of those deaths were alcohol-related and two of the victims were not wearing a seat belt.
Macomb County Sheriff Tony Wickersham told WWJ Newsradio 950 the public can help police as well, by keeping an eye out for anyone they believe may be driving under the influence.
“We ask that the public provide some valuable information — the make, model of the car, a license plate and direction of travel,” Wickersham said. “But we do warn the public, you know, don’t engage, don’t try to stop (them); just be a good witness for us and provide us the information.”
A motorist convicted of drunk driving can expect to face serious consequences including:
Up to 93 days in jail
Up to a $500 fine
Up to 360 hours of community service
180 days driving suspension
Six points on a driver’s license
In addition, they will be subject to a $1,000 fee for two consecutive years, for a total of $2,000 in additional costs. Anyone who refuses a breath test the first time is given an automatic one-year driver’s license suspension.
Motorists face enhanced penalties if arrested for a first-time drunk driving offense with a .17 BAC or higher, including increased fines, longer jail time, a one-year license suspension and the possibility of a restricted driver’s license with the use of a breath alcohol ignition interlock device.