The cars are unpacked, the grills back in the yard, the sleeping bags rolled up in the basement. Labor day is over, and Arizonans who were celebrating a few days ago are now back at work or at their daily routine.
Except for about 300 of them.
Those people will not be back into a routine for a while. Right now, they’re staring at DUI citations, contacting lawyers, planning court appearances, and figuring out how to pay fines. Some will be making appointments to have ignition interlocks, or car breathalyzers, installed on their vehicles.
The state of Arizona is tough on drunk drivers every week of the year, but Labor Day brings out the police in force. Like other states, Arizona sent out patrols to find impaired drivers. They made more than 7.500 stops and arrested almost 300 persons for driving under the influence. Typically, such patrols also catch other violations such as broken taillights and failure to use a seat belt.
About a quarter of those DUIs were of the “extreme” variety. That means their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was .015 percent or greater. A first conviction for extreme DUI garners at least 30 days’ jail time, a $2,500 fine, and a mandatory ignition interlock, which prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking.
It could have been worse. Drunk driving has indeed been on the decline in Arizona for few years now, thanks in part to better enforcement and education.
But those 300 people? They’ll have to live with the consequences. All of them will be required by Arizona law to use an ignition interlock device for a while, a measure which has been shown to reduce DUI recidivism. Between the interlock and the other consequences, most of them will learn from the experience and not re-offend. But until everyone gets the message that drunk driving is a reckless, dangerous crime, we won’t be expecting Arizona’s Labor Day DUI patrols to come back empty-handed in the near future.