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August 15, 2013

Operation Pull Over Blitz ramping up for holiday weekend

TERRE HAUTE — Impaired drivers in Vigo County can expect to encounter increased police patrols and sobriety checkpoints starting Friday and running through Labor Day Weekend.

The two weeks and three weekends of Operation Pull Over Blitz in Vigo County are receiving the support of the Vigo County Sheriff’s Department, Terre Haute and West Terre Haute police departments, Indiana State Police and the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute.

“During Labor Day weekend in 2012, there were 115 alcohol-related crashes in Indiana,” Sheriff Greg Ewing said during a news conference to announce the impaired driver blitz. “None of those occurred in Vigo County. We are asking people to make Vigo County another ‘zero’ in 2013.”

He asked the public to report impaired drivers seen on the roads by calling 911 and giving a location and vehicle description so that officers can respond to the area.

More than 250 Indiana law enforcement agencies will participate in the national impaired driving crackdown, said Ryan Klitzsch, traffic safety division director of the ICJI, which handles the federal grant that pays for police officers to work overtime, with an emphasis on locating and arresting impaired drivers.

The summer months between Memorial Day and Labor Day traditionally have the most alcohol-related accidents, Klitzsch said. Labor Day is usually the fifth-ranked holiday for having impaired drivers, he said.

Vigo County Prosecutor Terry Modesitt said that of the 3,085 traffic accidents that occurred in Vigo County last year, 236 were reported to be alcohol-related. That means that impaired driving carries a serious risk of injury or death, he said.

The sobriety checkpoints are intended to keep the motoring public safe by catching impaired drivers, Modesitt said.

“The inconvenience of a 2- to 3-minute stop could save a life in this county,” he said.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 32,300 people were killed nationwide in 2011 as the result of vehicle crashes. Of those, 9.878 people were killed in crashes that involved a driver with a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent or higher.

In Indiana in 2011, there were 188,100 vehicle crashes. Of those, 4,938 involved impaired drivers, and resulted in 140 deaths.

In 2012, there were 150 fatal alcohol-impaired collisions in Indiana, amounting to almost 21 percent of all fatal collisions.

Klitzsch also presented some other traffic safety facts for Vigo County in 2012, as compiled by the traffic division of the ICJI.

• The 25-44 age group had the most alcohol-related collisions, and of those drivers tested, most had a blood-alcohol content greater than 0.08 percent.

• The city of Terre Haute had 62 percent of the vehicle drivers in alcohol-related collisions; 36 percent were rural motorists.

• Of the 1,870 collisions in Terre Haute, the city recorded 106 alcohol-related collisions with one fatality and 40 non-fatal injuries.

• Rural areas of Vigo County had 1,148 total crashes, including 62 alcohol-related collisions.

• Of  those 1,148 crashes, including fatality and 40 non-fatal injuries.

• Speed-related collisions accounted for 202 crashes in the county, with 120 of those being rural crashes with one fatality, and 67 of  the 202 crashes having non-fatal injuries.

• The top city intersections for traffic-signal running (by collision count) are: Seventh and Walnut streets, Ninth and Poplar streets, Jessica Drive and U.S. 41, and 13th Street and College Avenue.

• The top intersections for collisions in Terre Haute are: Ohio and Third streets, Brown and Wabash avenues, Jessica Drive and U.S. 41, 13th and Hulman streets, U.S. 41 and Wheeler Avenue, U.S. 41 and Honey Creek, and 13th and Crawford streets.

Reporter Lisa Trigg can be reached at 812-231-4254 or Follow her on Twitter @TribStarLisa.


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