Make sure your March Madness bracket includes a designated driver as law enforcement agencies in 26 counties, including Delta County, are continuing to conduct extra patrols through April 7.
Police officers, sheriff deputies and Michigan State Police troopers from 144 agencies are participating in a drunk driving crackdown during a time period that includes the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) men's and women's basketball tournaments and high school and college spring break periods. A five-year review of crash data indicates both alcohol use and lack of seat belts play a significant role in fatal and serious injury crashes in March and early April.
The Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning (OHSP) is coordinating the effort which is supported by federal traffic safety funds.
"A true champion makes sure to designate a sober driver before the game begins," said Michael L. Prince, OHSP director. "Michigan law enforcement officers are specially trained to detect and arrest impaired drivers. If you are caught driving drunk, it's game over."
In 2013, 2,271 people were arrested for drunk driving during the NCAA tournament time period. Of those, 671 were arrested under the state's high blood-alcohol content (BAC) law with BACs of .17 or higher. More than 500 of those arrests were made by grant-funded law enforcement agencies during last year's drunk driving crackdown.
Extra patrols are planned in Allegan, Berrien, Calhoun, Chippewa, Delta, Eaton, Genesee, Grand Traverse, Houghton, Ingham, Jackson, Kalamazoo, Kent, Livingston, Macomb, Marquette, Monroe, Muskegon, Oakland, Ottawa, Saginaw, St. Clair, Van Buren, Washtenaw, Wayne and Wexford counties.
In Michigan, it is illegal to drive with a BAC of .08 or higher, although motorists can be arrested at any BAC level if an officer believes they are impaired. Motorists face enhanced penalties if arrested for a first-time drunk driving offense with a .17 BAC or higher.