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Holiday blitz a success

Monday, September 24, 2007

With a zero tolerance for driving impaired and seatbelt/child restraint violations, approximately 250 law enforcement agencies took to Indiana roadways during the Labor Day Holiday blitz period (Aug. 24-Sept. 9) as part of various impaired driving prevention programs.

The Clay County Sheriff's Dept. and the Terre Haute Post of the Indiana State Police worked overtime hours in conjunction with regular duty shifts and days off while participating in Operation Pull Over (O.P.O) and Operation Combined Accident Reduction Effort (C.A.R.E.).

While ISP Troopers used roving saturation patrols in an effort remove impaired drivers along Wabash Valley roadways, Clay County Sheriff's deputies were limited to the confines of county roadways.

During this holiday enforcement period, deputies and troopers made a combination of more than 370 vehicle stops along state and county roads here in Clay County.

While ISP issued 226 traffic citations, the sheriff's department reported issuing 36. Deputies issued 89 warnings for various traffic and license violations, while troopers reported 140.

The sheriff's department also participated in the Drunk Driving, Over the Limit, Under Arrest program, a comprehensive impaired driving prevention program organized by the U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

The high point of the blitz period for Clay County Sheriff's Dept. was on Sept. 7.

At approximately 3:30 a.m., while conducting an impaired driving saturation patrol, Deputy Jerry Siddons initiated a traffic stop on a suspicious vehicle and caught a burglary suspect with over $4,000 in stolen merchandise.

Sheriff Mike Heaton believes the arrest during the blitz period is an example of how important this program is to the community.

"These specialized enforcement periods, which are paid for by grant money, enable the Sheriff's Department to put extra officers out on the roadway," Heaton said. "It's important to me that the public knows their deputies work above and beyond their regular shifts, taking time away from their families, in an effort to make our roadways and community a safer place."

Clay County deputies made eight arrests for impaired driving and other crimes within county, while ISP troopers reported a total of 15 throughout the Wabash Valley.

The Governor's Council on Impaired & Dangerous Driving, a division of the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute, sponsored the campaigns, while the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration provided federal funding for the initiative that allowed officers to work overtime.

"Impaired driving is not a victimless crime," Indiana Criminal Justice Institute Executive Director Mike Cunegin said. "Officers from across the State should be commended for all of the hard work and hours of overtime they put into removing impaired drivers from the roadways by placing drivers, who were over the limit, under arrest."

This year the provisional total for Indiana highway deaths is 13, compared to 18 people died on Indiana highways during the 2006 Labor Day holiday period.

Neither the Terre Haute ISP post nor the Clay County Sheriff's Dept reported any traffic fatalities during the holiday period.

"Our troopers work very hard and take great pride in making our roadways safe for motorists," ISP Lieutenant Mike Eslinger, Commander of the Terre Haute post, said.

"Every holiday period we hope our enforcement efforts will prevent traffic fatalities and this holiday period we did just that."

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