Police herald spring by targeting drunken driving

Detroit Free Press Staff Writer

Police across the state will be cracking down on drunken drivers in a springtime blitz timed to kick off as Michiganders raise pints of beer — green and otherwise — on St. Patrick’s Day.

On Thursday, the Michigan State Police announced a crackdown that will run through April 2.

The troopers also unveiled beverage coasters that were distributed to about 500 bars and restaurants across the state. The coasters have QR (or quick read) codes that users of smartphones can scan and call up lists of nearby cab companies for motorists who have had too much to drink.

The QR code program uses global positioning system information to determine which taxi companies are near a particular bar.

The Office of Highway Safety Planning, a division of the State Police, said the coasters are designed to appeal to young adults who are most likely to use smartphones, but particularly men. In Michigan, 80% of the drivers involved in alcohol-related fatal crashes in 2010 were men, and 40% of them were in the 21-34 age range.

“The goal, always, is to encourage motorists to be safe and responsible when behind the wheel,” said Michael Prince, director of the Office of Highway Safety Planning. “The coasters are meant to reinforce this important message.”

The campaign and the coasters were unveiled at a news conference Thursday at Kennedy’s Irish Pub in Waterford. The Michigan Licensed Beverage Association, a trade group representing bar and tavern owners statewide, helped distribute the coasters among its member watering holes.

Prince said police departments in 26 counties will step up drunken-driving enforcement in the crackdown. This year it was extended to a three-week period that takes in spring breaks and college basketball’s March Madness tournament.

State Police said last year in Michigan 2,215 drivers were arrested March 15-April 4, including 613 people who registered blood-alcohol levels of 0.17% or higher. They were eligible for tougher penalties under Michigan’s super-drunk law.

Contact Matt Helms: 313-222-1450 or mhelms@freepress.com    

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