WESTFIELD – Saint Patrick’s Day is Sunday, March 17. That weekend, Westfield law enforcement officials plan to be on high alert, cracking down on drunk driving as part of their “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” public safety campaign.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, over 700 people were killed in the United States from 2006 to 2010 in crashes involving drunk drivers during Saint Patrick’s Day.  In 2010, more than 10,000 people died in alcohol-impaired driving crashes—one every 51 minutes.

“Drunk driving is dangerous, deadly and against the law and it will not be tolerated in Westfield this Saint Patrick’s Day weekend,” said Westfield Police Chief David Wayman. “We are giving fair warning to anyone traveling through Westfield that our law enforcement officers will be out on patrol, and if you are caught driving drunk, you will be arrested.”

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What happens next depends on the driver’s record. If this first offense, if convicted, the driver will receive a fine of $250 to $400, lose the right to operate a motor vehicle for three months and have to attend an intoxicated driver resource center.

For a third offense, if convicted, the driver would need to pay $1,000, spend 180 days in county jail, attend 90 days of classes at an intoxicated driver resource center and forfeit the right to operate a motor vehicle for 10 years.

During Saint Patrick’s Day weekend, the Westfield Police Department will increase its Driving While Intoxicated enforcement efforts with additional police patrols and one or possibly more DWI checkpoints during the late-evening and early-morning hours. Checkpoint locations are being considered on Central Avenue, East Broad Street, North Avenue, South Avenue and Springfield Avenue.

“Whether you are gathering with friends at a restaurant or bar or attending a local parade, if alcohol is part of your festivities, make sure you designate a sober driver to get you home safely,” added Wayman.

Chief Wayman and the Westfield Police Department are offering these tips to help ensure a happy and safe Saint Patrick’s Day weekend:

–   Plan a safe way home before festivities begin.

–   Before drinking, designate a sober driver and leave your car keys home.

–   If you’re impaired, use a taxi, call a sober friend or family member or use public transportation to get home safely.

–   If you think you see a drunk driver on the road, immediately contact the local police department.

–   If you know someone who has been drinking and is about to drive while impaired, take his or her keys and make other arrangements to get that person home safely.