Crime & Courts

Police watch for DUI over holiday

Local law enforcement officials launch a weeklong crackdown on unsafe driving today in an attempt to make streets and highways safer over the Thanksgiving travel period.

The effort by Wichita police and Sedgwick County sheriff's officers is part of the Kansas Thanksgiving Traffic Enforcement Mobilization that stretches through Sunday.

Authorities say law enforcement officers will focus on finding impaired drivers and occupants who are not using a seat belt.

"Those driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs endanger themselves, their passengers, other motorists, and pedestrians," Wichita police Deputy Chief Terri Moses said in a prepared statement.

Compared with crashes where alcohol was not involved, occupants in crashes where alcohol is involved are more than twice as likely to be injured or killed, according to Kansas Department of Transportation statistics.

Nearly 350 drivers in Kansas are arrested each week for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Many needless deaths and injuries result from victims not wearing seat belts, authorities said. Those who do not buckle up are about 12 times more likely to be killed and almost twice as likely to suffer injury in a crash as those who do buckle up.

In addition, injuries suffered by those not safely restrained are likely to be much more severe and disabling than those suffered when an occupant is properly restrained.

State law requires all front-seat passengers to be buckled in and allows vehicles to be stopped if a minor is seen unbuckled anywhere in the vehicle.

If a passenger under the age of 14 is unrestrained, the driver will be cited, officials said.

A driver or passenger between the ages of 14 and 17 who is seen to be unrestrained will be given a citation.

Children under the age of 4 must be secured in a federally approved child safety seat. Children between the ages of 4 and 7 must be belted in an approved booster seat, and children between the ages of 8 and 13 must use a safety belt.