Cops launch 'Operation Safe Christmas'

DUI crackdown hopes to rid roads of drunk drivers

TAMPA - A multi-agency crackdown on drunk driving has kicked off for the holiday season, and this year law enforcement is hoping Hillsborough County won't remain among Florida's worst counties for DUI cases.

The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, in conjunction with the Florida Highway Patrol, Tampa Police, USF Police, and Temple Terrace Police are scouring the streets for drunk drivers starting Saturday night and running through New Year's.  

It's a no tolerance policy when it comes to drinking and driving.

"We always see an increase this time of year," said Sgt. Troy Morgan, a Hillsborough sheriff's deputy.  "There's never a good time to lose a loved one."

Or spend time in jail.  The agencies have set up the BAT mobile, the breath alcohol testing unit, to speed up processing of drunk drivers into jail.  Motorists who are pulled over will be taken to the BAT unit, tested, and transported by van to the Hillsborough County Jail if they're over the legal limit for blood alcohol level.

"We want them to understand that we are out here and aggressively patrolling to make sure that it's safe out here," Morgan said.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving provided food and refreshments for the officers involved in the crackdown Saturday night, a tradition the Hillsborough chapter has followed for years.

Linda Unfried with MADD said while she hopes the public gets the message about drinking and driving, she's often disappointed to see Hillsborough County ranked first or second every year for DUI cases in Florida.

"It is very frustrating and we wonder where we are missing it.  Why isn't the message getting across," Unfried said.  "It's simple.  Don't drink and drive."

MADD volunteers said while there's more media than ever before to promote the dangers of drunk driving, there are still plenty of cases despite the publicity.

"For 30 years I've been saying the same thing, and every time someone gets killed I feel like we take a step backwards," Unfried said.
 

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