Lawrence, Douglas County law enforcement to begin cracking down on drunk driving as part of prevention campaign

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As part of a national campaign to limit impaired and distracted drivers on the road, area law enforcement will participate in “enhanced patrols” starting Saturday and lasting through Labor Day weekend.

The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office and Lawrence Police Department will join the “You Drink. You Drive. You Lose” campaign from Saturday, Aug. 20 through Monday, Sept. 5, patrolling the road for suspected impaired or distracted drivers, according to their news releases.

The Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) and other state agencies have collaborated to encourage safe driving during the Labor Day weekend when, historically, there is an increase in impaired driving and crashes, according to the release.

That means the crackdown also follows move-in week for students of the University of Kansas and Haskell Indian Nations University, and it will continue throughout their first few weeks in Lawrence.

The police department also recently announced that they’ll have a greater presence of officers in downtown Lawrence and the Oread neighborhood on Saturday nights from August through most of October. “Don’t worry. We’re not concerned about specific criminal activity in the area. We’re there to help educate and prevent crime,” that announcement said.

Possible penalties

Under Kansas law, a first DUI (driving under the influence) conviction generally comes with at least 48 hours but up to six months in jail; fines up to $1,000, not including attorney fees, court costs and more; ignition interlock (blowing into a machine before your vehicle will start — which also costs more money); a substance abuse evaluation; a suspended license; and more.

That’s pretty much the best case scenario. “The ‘You Drink. You Drive. You Lose’ enforcement campaign helps remind drivers they do not want to wake up every day knowing they hurt or killed someone because of a bad decision,” Lt. Myrone Grady said in LPD’s news release.

“Driving after consuming alcohol or any impairing substance is a choice you make. There are so many ride-share options available these days there really is no excuse. Think about your family, friends, coworkers, neighbors and do not get behind the wheel. Period.”

Some options to plan ahead

KU SafeRide: If you’re a KU student, SafeRide operates from 10:30 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. seven days a week during the fall and spring semesters, except during class breaks and holidays. This semester, service starts Friday, Aug. 19. They can provide students rides home anywhere within city limits. (No, they won’t take you to another bar.)

You’ll need to have your KU ID number and card ready, and a vehicle with the KU SafeRide logo will pick you up. Read more about how it works at this link, and call 785-864-SAFE (7233) to get a ride. (Pro tip: Save that number before you need it.)

Night Line: Lawrence Transit also offers a shared-ride service called Night Line that can be used to travel to any destination in city limits from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. Mondays through Saturdays. However, you’ll need to schedule your ride in advance by calling 785-312-7054 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and there is a 30-minute window for the pickup time. Night Line rides currently cost $2, but they will be free beginning in 2023. Learn more at this link.

Uber and Lyft also operate in Lawrence.

Dangers of impaired and distracted driving

LPD said in its release Thursday that one person is killed every 52 minutes in a drunk driving crash in the United States. In announcing a saturation patrol in July, LPD said that since the beginning of this year, there have been four fatal crashes in Lawrence and Douglas County in which alcohol or drugs were a factor.

Drinking any amount of alcohol before driving can risk the safety of both the driver and others on the road because alcohol impairs thinking, reasoning and muscle coordination, according to LPD’s release.

DGSO urges residents to avoid impaired and distracted driving and that the campaign is aimed at removing dangerous drivers from roads and highways.

“There are many exciting things happening this time of year with college and school starting and people looking to celebrate on Labor Day weekend,” Sheriff Jay Armbrister said in the release. “We encourage everyone to celebrate safely in avoiding distractions, and if you drink, don’t drive.”

In a video compilation of dashcam footage, the sheriff’s office shows the dangers of impaired driving.

This campaign is funded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and safety funds are administered by KDOT.

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