LI police to step up DWI patrols during holiday week

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Drunken drivers beware: An Islandwide crackdown targeting intoxicated motorists is set to begin Wednesday night as people gather to celebrate the holiday weekend.

County and state police plan to step up DWI patrols. Nassau plans to put 100 extra officers to work over the five-day stretch, officials said. They will patrol the Long Island Expressway and other major roads with the sole purpose of identifying and catching impaired and intoxicated drivers.

"You have plenty of warning, so prearrange your designated drivers," Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano said Monday at a news conference in Mineola, an annual plea to motorists not to get behind the wheel if they have had too much to drink.

So far this year, 18 people have died in alcohol-related crashes in Nassau, Mangano said, and more than 1,800 DWI arrests have been made.

Suffolk officials Monday could not immediately provide similar statistics.

Assistant Chief of Patrol Stuart Cameron said his department also plans to step up DWI enforcement in Suffolk.

"We will set up checkpoints," Cameron said.

In Suffolk, officers will also be on the lookout for people under 21 who drink illegally and drive. For this group of motorists, a blood-alcohol level of anything above .02 could land them a trip to a police precinct and a summons.

Officials in both counties urge revelers to call a cab if they have one too many at a bar, restaurant, or friends' and relatives' homes.

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"If you don't care about your own personal safety, think about the innocent pedestrians and other drivers out there whose lives you can tragically affect," Mangano said.

Both counties will use grant money to pay for the extra officers. Nassau will also use overtime money.

Why start patrols the night before Thanksgiving?

"It's usually a big bar night, so we do see an increase in drinking," Cameron said. "College students are off and people don't have to go to work on Thursday."

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