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Police using new tool to catch drunk drivers this holiday season

“Just pass the keys. Make that decision ahead of time and be responsible,” said Lieutenant Tim Williams with the Mishawaka Police Department.

Wednesday is the eve of Thanksgiving Day, a day notoriously known as ‘blackout Wednesday’. Locals are expected to hit the bars in full force but local law enforcement says, they are too. Police with the St. Joseph County Traffic Safety Partnership say they see that particular night a little differently.

“This is known as one of the busiest drinking days of the holiday season. Our goal is to increase the number of officers out on the roadways to enforce traffic laws,” said Williams.

The Traffic Safety Partnership is in the middle of their Safe Family Travel blitz and they’re using nights like Wednesday to send a message to drunk drivers ahead of the holidays…

“The goal is to save lives and not to make that arrest,” said Williams.

…with some really sensitive new technology.

“We received the Alco-Sensor FST PBT. It can be used to do the actual breath test but you can also put it in passive mode so it can actually determine, one, if there’s alcohol in the air of the vehicle that you actually stopped, or if there’s alcohol in a drink,” said Williams.

Lieutenant Williams says it’s another tool officers can use to verify their suspicions of a drunk driver after the driver has completed the field sobriety test and the new portable breath test only takes less than 5 seconds to sniff out the smell of alcohol.

“So this is a great tool to have. It helps us confirm what we’re seeing. The PBT has been around for a long time.. ever since I was hired on 30 years ago. They’ve just updated the actual technology in them,” said Williams.

He says if there’s any time to introduce a new tool like this, it’s now.

“We have a lot of college students that are returning home, we have relatives that are coming into town to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday tomorrow. Our goal is to not have something like this happen where a loved one loses their life because of a drunk driver. Make sure that these tragedies don’t occur over Thanksgiving or any weekend or holiday or even any day,” said Williams.

Saint Joseph County received about 70 of the almost 2,000 of these new testing tools through a federal grant, so taxpayer money does not go towards the cost of these, which are about $450 a piece.

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