Special Effort Launched to Stop Drunk Drivers

DES MOINES, Iowa -- Starting Wednesday, police officers around the state will step up their fight against drunk drivers.

The Governor’s Traffic and Safety Bureau calls the next five days a STEP wave, or Special Traffic Enforcement Program.

“St. Patrick’s Day is coming up and part of that celebration is the use of alcohol,” said Pat Hoye, director, GTSB. “There is always high crash and high alcohol during this week.”

With the NCAA basketball tournament games all weekend, St. Patrick’s Day on Friday and some nicer weather on the horizon, they expect there to be quite a few intoxicated drivers.

Hoye says that the next five days are one of the most dangerous stretches to be on Iowa roads and what makes it so dangerous is the amount of impaired drivers opting to get behind the wheel.

“Unfortunately, there are just a higher amount of alcohol related crashes connected to this weekend and surrounding days,” said Hoye.

Here is what they are doing about it.

Over the next five days, the GTSB will allocate over $500,000 to provide extra enforcement to prevent OWI.

With those increased units, they will target high traffic areas for OWI like downtown Des Moines, West Moines and other high demand areas. It’s not just the metro, over 100 agencies across the state will be covered.

This is the first of five waves and they hope to cut down on fatalities. In Iowa, about one in four vehicle fatalities involve impaired driving. The other STEP dates are Labor and Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Thanksgiving week.

Hoye says while the total number of OWI charges have steadily decreased, the  blood alcohol content of the those arrested has been on the rise.

”Scary stat. Last year, the average BAC of a fatality was .206. You know, .08 is the legal limit here in the state of Iowa and the average of a fatality of an accident was .206. If you’re looking for a scary stat that would be it,” said Hoye.

Hoye urges drivers, over the next five days, to plan for a ride if they intend to drink. He says that people need to utilize the resources available to them. Not only are there multiple rideshare apps, many bars will offer taxi vouchers or discount codes to get a cheaper ride home.