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PennDOT, police target underage drinking in national crackdown

Motorists will see an increased police presence on the highways as more than 600 municipal police departments and Pennsylvania State Police are joining in a national crackdown on impaired driving through the Labor Day weekend.

“Whenever people make the decision to drive while impaired, they risk their own life and the lives of everyone else on the road,” said PennDOT Secretary Allen D. Biehler, P.E. “This stepped-up enforcement is an effort to make our roads safer by removing as many of these impaired drivers as possible.”

A key focus of the crackdown will be underage drinking and driving as college students prepare to return to campus, and high school football season gets under way. Awareness events will be held at several high schools and colleges.

According to PennDOT, there were more than 1,400 alcohol-related crashes involving drivers age 16 through 20 across the state last year, which resulted in 45 fatalities.

PennDOT reminds young drivers that the state’s Zero Tolerance Law carries serious consequences for those under 21 convicted of driving with any amount of alcohol in their blood. For example, those under 21 convicted of driving under the influence with a 0.02 blood alcohol content, or greater, face a 12-to-18-month license suspension, 48 hours to six months in jail, and fines from $500 to $5,000.

In addition, a vehicle does not have to be involved for intoxicated individuals under 21 to lose their driving privileges. Anyone under 21 convicted of consuming, possessing or transporting alcohol or lying about their age to obtain alcohol or carrying a fake ID, faces a fine of $500, plus court costs and a 90-day license suspension for the first offense.

Although much emphasis will be placed on underage drinking and driving, police will also be watching for any motorist who may be impaired by drugs or a combination of drugs and alcohol. Police made more than 9,100 DUI drug arrests in 2008.

For more information on impaired driving, visit PennDOT’s highway safety Web site, www.DriveSafePA.org.

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