By Kelly Terpstra, firstname.lastname@example.org
It’s St. Patrick’s Day weekend, and for many that means the consumption of alcoholic beverages.
Those who imbibe and drive should be aware that the Floyd County Sheriff’s Department and Charles City Police Department will be making their presence known from today (Thursday) through Sunday, March 17.
“We’re not discouraging people from going out and having a good time. We’re just discouraging you from driving after that,” said Hugh Anderson, Charles City police chief.
Through an initiative called sTEP (special Traffic Enforcement Program), participating state law enforcement agencies will be on the lookout for drivers who may be under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Heightened traffic enforcement will also be paying attention to compliance with seat belt requirements.
Anderson said his department was one of five pilot agencies across the state that began participating in the program. The state helps fund law enforcement departments in the overtime hours worked by deputies or officers during sTEP.
The program is a grant through the Governor’s Transportation Safety Bureau. There are four sets of dates that sTEP can be enforced by participating law enforcement departments. In addition to the dates in March, the periods are May 20-June 2, around Memorial Day; July 3-7, around Independence Day; and Aug. 16-Sept. 2, around Labor Day.
Anderson said his department keeps track of its enforcement during a sTEP period to help determine grant money awarded. Grants are also based on the size of a community.
The funds allocated for the program can also help departments purchase radar equipment, portable breath testing units and cameras, among other things, Anderson said.
“It offsets taxpayer money from the city and helps that way,” Anderson said.
According to the latest statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 59 people were killed in drunk driving crashes over the 2017 St. Patrick’s Day holiday period.
“If you can find a ride, that’s what we encourage,” said Anderson.