NORWALK - City police Thursday night began stepping up patrols for drunken and drugged drivers using a state grant that puts at least four extra officers on the road during certain nights through the end of the month.
A reoccurring Connecticut Highway Safety Program grant, worth $8,300, will pay 75 percent of the costs of putting the extra officers on the road, Lt. Timothy Murphy said.
"We encourage people to designate a driver if you will be out drinking," police Chief Harry Rilling said yesterday. "Drunk or drugged driving, like most social problems, resists simple solutions. However, there will be a concentrated and directed effort to identify and remove impaired drivers from our roads."
Along with the added patrols, police are planning at least one sobriety checkpoint sometime this month, Murphy said. Officers also will be on the lookout for seat-belt violations. Officials would not reveal which days the officers will be working.
Rilling and Lt. Paul Resnick said the added emphasis on drunken driving coincides with warm weather, college students returning home from school and prom season.
In 2005, the last year statistics were available, 44 percent of Connecticut's 274 traffic fatalities were alcohol-related, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Drivers are legally intoxicated if they have a blood-alcohol content of 0.08 or more.
Patrol officers and undercover officers will be monitoring the beach area and parks for signs of drivers consuming alcoholic beverages and illegal drugs.
Signs of DUI include: weaving, passing dangerously, straddling the center line, making wide turns, driving slowly, tailgating and forgetting to turn on headlights.
"Hopefully, we will be effective and make things a little safer," Resnick said.
The officers on patrol arrested one man for driving under the influence early yesterday. Another 18 motorists were ticketed for various infractions from 6:30 p.m. Thursday to 1:30 a.m. yesterday.
Copyright © 2007, Southern Connecticut Newspapers, Inc.