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West Michigan officers cracking down on drunk drivers

Motorists are being warned not to let their summertime fun end with a drunk driving arrest as law enforcement agencies in 13 West Michigan counties will be cracking down on drunk drivers through additional patrols Aug. 19-Sept. 5.

The Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning (OHSP) is coordinating the Drunk Driving. Over the Limit. Under Arrest. crackdown by administering federal traffic safety funds to more than 200 agencies in 35 counties. Grant-funded counties in West Michigan are Allegan, Barry, Berrien, Calhoun, Cass, Ionia, Kalamazoo, Kent, Montcalm, Muskegon, Newaygo, Ottawa and Van Buren.

“Extra officers will be out on the road, looking for drunk drivers,” said OHSP Director Michael L. Prince. “Motorists need to be aware that it’s simply not worth the risk. If they are caught over the limit, they will find themselves under arrest.”

During last year’s Labor Day drunk driving crackdown, more than 500 motorists were arrested for drunk driving and other alcohol-related offenses.

About 38 percent of all traffic fatalities in Michigan involve alcohol and/or drugs, and last year, 357 people died as a result of alcohol and/or drug-involved traffic crashes. Over the 2010 Labor Day holiday weekend, 21 people died in Michigan crashes. Ten of those fatalities involved alcohol, including five people who were killed in one crash, according to the Michigan Department of State Police, Criminal Justice Information Center.

Motorists face severe penalties for driving drunk. Those convicted of a first drunk driving offense face up to 93 days in jail, up to a $500 fine, up to 360 hours of community service, six points on a driver’s license and up to 180 days’ license suspension.

Anyone arrested for a first-time drunk driving offense with a .17 blood alcohol content or above faces increased penalties including the possible installation of an ignition interlock device preventing the car from starting if the driver has been drinking.

In addition, convicted drunk drivers 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.

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