State: Some young men think they drive better drunk than sober - WNEM TV 5

State: Some young men think they drive better drunk than sober

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EAST LANSING, MI (WNEM) -

The Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning says many young men in Michigan refer to themselves as being a "professional drunk driver." 

The OHSP received that response during focus groups this spring. The OHSP says the "professionals" felt they were actually better drivers when drunk.

Each participant had tactics and strategies, including taking side streets and not wearing a hat, to help them "outsmart" law enforcement officers.

The state's new drunk driving enforcement campaign attempts to dispel these perceptions by combining the drunk drivers' own words with a reality check: They aren't getting away with anything. Law enforcement officers are specially trained to find and arrest drunk drivers.

The new campaign kicks off as nearly 160 law enforcement agencies in 26 counties begin stepped-up drunk driving patrols Thursday through Sept. 3 during the Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over crackdown.

"Michigan law enforcement officers are experts at catching drunk drivers. They know all the tricks and have heard all the excuses," said Michael L. Prince, director of OHSP. "If you drive drunk, you will be arrested, so make the smart decision and find a safe and sober ride home."

OHSP used focus groups to gain greater insight into why young men drive drunk, despite potentially stiff penalties including jail time, fines and license sanctions. In 2011, men represented more than 80 percent of drinking drivers in alcohol-involved fatal crashes.

Of those male drivers, more than 40 percent were 21 to 34 years old. Statistics indicate men are arrested for drunk driving at a rate of nearly three to every one woman in Michigan.

In addition to drunk driving patrols, seat belt enforcement will take place in Genesee, Kalamazoo, Kent, Macomb, Monroe, Oakland, Saginaw, St. Clair, Washtenaw and Wayne counties. These counties were selected based on high crash and fatality rates for unbuckled motorists.

Campaign advertising is running on broadcast and cable TV, radio and websites popular with young men. The television ad can be viewed at www.youtube.com/ohsp.

The enforcement in Flint, Grand Rapids and Metro Detroit will also be supported by mobile billboards alerting motorists about drunk driving patrols in their area. For a list of planned enforcement times, dates and locations, visit www.michigan.gov/ohsp.

The new campaign and stepped-up enforcement are paid for with federal traffic safety funds coordinated by OHSP.

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