Jefferson County stepping up enforcement over St. Patrick's Day weekend

With St. Patrick's Day coming up this weekend and many school districts' spring breaks right around the corner, the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office wants to be sure everyone is driving safely on the roads.

The department will be participating in the sTEP Wave Enforcement Program starting Thursday, March 14 through Sunday, March 17. Deputies will be stepping up enforcement of drunk driving, seatbelt usage, speed and more. The idea is to educate drivers and change their dangerous driving habits.

"We're focusing more on changing the behavior of drivers out there," said Chief Deputy Bart Richmond. "Speed is a big thing and it is about educating people and I guess to do that, we do not only have to be visible, but there will be contact with people as far as traffic stops. That's how we're going to education the people and not necessarily that there's going to be a lot of citations, but in order for us to education those people, yes, there will be traffic stops."

The Jefferson County Sheriff's Office participants in this program around six times a year, and Deputy Richmond said they also focus on texting and driving and distracted driving.

According to statistics from the Governor's Traffic and Safety Bureau, 700 people were killed nationwide in crashes involving drunk drivers during the St. Patrick's Day holiday from 2006 to 2010, and 129 lost their lives in 2010 alone.

The Bureau and the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office recommend planning a safe way home before festivities begin, call a taxi, don't be afraid to call in a drunk driver and to help others arrange safe ways home to help the state achieve its goal of zero traffic fatalities.