COLUMBIA — Columbia youth, whether attending prom at Hickman or Rock Bridge high schools, or celebrating at post-graduation parties, should think before drinking and driving.
The Columbia Police Department is participating in an expansive law enforcement campaign to clamp down on drivers who get behind the wheel after underage drinking. The Youth DWI Enforcement Campaign begins Thursday and will last until May 13.
The issue of underage drinking and driving has been a serious one for more than a decade. Under Missouri's Zero Tolerance Law, passed in 1996, minors pulled over for traffic violations who are found to have any trace of alcohol in their system may have their license suspended or even revoked.
Missouri Department of Transportation records from 2009 to 2011 show a total of 94 deaths and 368 injuries from a combined 316 crashes caused by intoxicated drivers younger than 21, according to a release from the police department.
The effort is sponsored by MoDOT's Traffic and Highway Safety Division and the Missouri Department of Public Safety, said Columbia Police Sgt. Curtis Perkins, supervisor of the city's traffic unit.
"This is a statewide campaign, which has been set during this time of year because of the many events at which minors tend to attend drunk or drink after and then proceed to get behind the wheel," Perkins said. He listed local events that include senior proms at Hickman and Rock Bridge, to be held Friday and May 12, respectively; MU graduation on May 11 and May 12; and the high schools' graduations on May 19.
"Basically, we're going to be targeting all drunk drivers," Perkins said. "We'll have extra saturation patrols and at least one instance of a sobriety check point. We'll look for failure to use the headlights, swerving into the middle of the road or just speeding as signs of intoxication."