Police targeting drunk drivers

ESCANABA – Drivers traveling throughout Michigan for the Fourth of July holiday will find extra drunk driving enforcement teams along the roadways.

A special news conference took place this week at Lemerand Park in Escanaba to announce the statewide patrols. Delta County Prosecuting Attorney Steve Parks said that the drunk driving enforcement season takes place over two weeks; from July 1 through July 13.

“When drivers get behind the wheel drunk, they are risking their own life, the lives of their passengers and all the lives of others using the roads,” he said. “There were 19 traffic deaths over the Fourth of July last year, and 40 percent of those involved alcohol.”

According to the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning, officers from nearly 150 local police departments, sheriff offices and Michigan State Police posts in 26 counties, including members of Michigan’s impaired driving enforcement all-star team, will be included in the extra patrols.

Parks explained that impaired driving enforcement all-stars is the name given to officers who have received the 2013 Michigan Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Lifesavers Awards.

Betsy Harris, victim service specialist for MADD in the Upper Peninsula, discussed the presentation of the Lifesavers awards, which took place at a luncheon during the summer of 2013. The award “recognizes officers and law enforcement agencies that make a difference in education, prevention, policy, and enforcement which reduce impaired driving deaths and injuries,” she said.

During 2013, 16 officers and four police departments were recognized with Lifesaver awards, she added, and two additional officers received the inaugural Olivia Cleveland Gratitude Award.

“All of these officers demonstrate an unwavering dedication to drunk driving enforcement, education, and prevention,” said Harris.

Harris introduced Trooper Greg Primeau of the Michigan State Police Iron Mountain Post, who was one of the 2013 MADD award winners.

According to Michigan State Police Iron Mountain Post Commander F/Lt. Christine Grabowski, Primeau was nominated for the honor based on the 26 impaired driving arrests he made during the 2012 season, and for his work educating other law enforcement officers in Standardized Field Sobriety Testing (SFST), Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement (ARIDE) and Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) training programs.

An official DUI Enforcement All-Stars banner which includes a photograph of Trooper Primeau was also displayed at Lemerand Park.

Escanaba Public Safety Director Ken Vanderlinden also spoke during the event, discussing officer training for impaired driving patrols and the fines and fees drunk drivers face if convicted.

“We would prefer that everyone simply heed our warnings and designate a sober driver,” Vanderlinden said. “No matter how much advanced training these officers receive, we would rather see you make it home safely.”

Other participants in the conference included: Delta County Sheriff Gary Ballweg, Gladstone Public Safety Director Paul Geyer and Escanaba Public Safety Sgt. John Gudwer.