Authorities Watch for Drunk Drivers

Thursday, June 29th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) — More than 300 people are likely to die in alcohol-related crashes during the July Fourth weekend, one of the deadliest holidays each year, authorities said Thursday.

In 1998, the latest year for which federal statistics are available, 241 people died in alcohol-related crashes during the weekend, which is the second most heavily traveled holiday, said Millie I. Webb, national president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

``These death-count numbers are unacceptable and they are preventable,'' Webb said at a kickoff for National Sobriety Checkpoint Week. Campaign partners include the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Nationwide Insurance and law enforcement agencies from across the country.

Sobriety checkpoints work because they catch drunken drivers and provide incentive for people to designate sober drivers, Webb said.

The District of Columbia and 39 states have agreed to hold sobriety checkpoints, and most states are assigning officers this weekend specifically to look for drunken drivers, she said.

``They're eager to catch you, arrest you and take swift action to keep you off the roads,'' said Rosalyn Millman, NHTSA's deputy administrator.

The Rev. Allen Phipps of Kansas City, Mo., who supports that effort, said his back is still sore 30 years after a drunken driver rear-ended his car.

Phipps said his brother was not as fortunate in 1995 when an 11-time repeat offender crashed a car into the back of his pickup truck, killing one of Phipps' nieces and severely injuring another.

``We don't have to stand for it,'' Phipps said. ``Any state or community that's serious about winning the war on drunk driving must, at a minimum, make sobriety checkpoints a routine and visible part of their safety programs.''