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Law enforcement extra vigilant New Year’s weekend

Durango police and Colorado state troopers will increase staff and patrols with an eye toward impaired drivers this weekend
Durango police and the Colorado State Patrol will be looking for impaired drivers this holiday weekend with increased staff and patrols. (File)

Driving conditions are not expected to be optimal this weekend with another bout of winter weather predicted for Southwest Colorado. But conditions will be downright dismal on Saturday and Sunday for drivers figuring to skate past police with a New Year’s buzz.

Despite the annual warnings that likely go back to the invention of the wheel, hundreds of Coloradans will attempt to drive “buzzed, stoned or wasted” this weekend, according to the Colorado State Patrol.

“Historically, December is a busy month for law enforcement due to poor decision-making at holiday parties, which leads to impaired drivers on Colorado’s highways and community streets,” said Mathew Packard, chief of the CSP. “When you fail to call a ride-share or a sober friend, you endanger every motorist and pedestrian on your path home.”

In December 2021, state troopers issued 388 citations for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs and investigated 44 impaired-driving crashes that resulted in injury or death.

The Durango Police Department will not set up sobriety checkpoints because they are staff-intensive and do not have much success, said Cmdr. Casey Malone of the DPD.

“We are just going to increase some targeted enforcement and have some additional DUI cars out along with more staff,” Malone said. “We generally have better success that way.”

There is always a spike in people cited for driving under the influence on New Year’s Eve compared with other days of the year, he said. “But as always, we would like to remind the public to please drink responsibly, plan ahead, and if need be – have a designated driver.”

The legal “per say” limit of alcohol level in the blood that will result in a citation for driving impaired is .08 and above.

“But that doesn’t mean that less than .08 means you are not impaired,” Malone said. “Technically, you could be stopped and be at .06, but if your driving has been poor and you perform poorly on field sobriety tests and the officer can articulate it, you can still be charged with (driving under the influence or driving impaired).”

For those who don’t keep a blood-alcohol detector handy when imbibing, the science-based standard states that a 120-pound female reaches the legal limit (as in don’t drive) after two drinks and a 180-pound man after four drinks. A “drink” is considered to be either a single 1.5-ounce shot of hard liquor, a 12-ounce glass of beer or a 5-ounce glass of wine. However, research shows that some impairment begins for both sexes after a single drink.

People who drive at the .08 level are 11 times more likely to have a single-vehicle crash than drivers with no alcohol in their system, according to police statistics.

gjaros@durangoherald.com