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Security Forces, local police cracking down on drunk driving during holidays

Senior Airman John Camacho, 18th Security Forces Squadron traffic safety unit, makes a traffic checkpoint to conduct a sobriety test using an alcohol detector at different areas on the base December 23, 2008. Kadena law enforcement officials and Okinawa police will exercise increased vigilance during the holidays to prevent drunk driving and keep the roads safe.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Rey Ramon)

Senior Airman John Camacho, 18th Security Forces Squadron traffic safety unit, makes a traffic checkpoint to conduct a sobriety test using an alcohol detector at different areas on the base December 23, 2008. Kadena law enforcement officials and Okinawa police will exercise increased vigilance during the holidays to prevent drunk driving and keep the roads safe. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Rey Ramon)

KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- To keep drunk drivers off the road, Kadena law enforcement officials and Okinawa police will be exercising increased vigilance during the holidays. 

Motorists can expect to see a greater number of sobriety checkpoints around the base and off base as law enforcement officials try to keep the roads safe during a period that usually sees an uptick in drunk driving incidents.

"Our goal is to encourage people not to go out and drink and drive," said Tech. Sgt. Ronald Keeve, 18th SFS NCO-in-charge of police services. "We want people to be safe as they go out and celebrate the holidays with friends and loved ones."

Drivers will notice more sobriety checkpoints set up at various locations around Kadena and at other military installations. But Sergeant Keeve warns people on the dangers of trying to "beat the system."

"Sobriety checkpoint locations are randomized by a computer program. So there's no telling where or when a checkpoint will be set up next," said Sergeant Keeve. "Drivers can also be charged if they try to elude a checkpoint, such as making a U-turn or pulling into somebody's driveway."

Sergeant Keeve said eluding checkpoints is considered a refusal to submit to a sobriety test, which leads to an automatic two-year driver's license revocation. The penalty off-base increased from 300,000 yen to three months confinement and a fee not to exceed 500,000 yen.

There are three drinking-and-driving standards enforced by 18th SFS officials:

Drivers may be charged with driving while drinking intoxicated, or DWDI, if the sobriety test results in a blood-alcohol content of .03 to .049. The driver will be given a citation and the vehicle will be held for 12 hours.

Sobriety test results from .05 to .079 are considered driving under the influence, or DUI. Consquences include six months suspension of license, a citation, impounded vehicle and additional administrative actions deemed necessary by the member's unit.

Driving while impaired, or DWI, is the charge for sobriety test results of .08 or above. Penalties include one-year revocation of license and impounded vehicle. The driver will be required to deregister the vehicle as well.

"With these consequences in mind, it's best to submit to a sobriety test at a checkpoint than to avoid it altogether and lose your privileges for two years," Sergeant Keeve said.

Drivers should expect even stricter rules off base, especially with the implementation of Japan's amended traffic law, which extends drunk driving penalties to passengers and those providing intoxicated people with a vehicle or alcohol.

The new laws and punishments are as follows:

Driving Under the Influence (DUI): Confinement up to three years and a fine up to one million yen

Driving While Impaired (DWI): Confinement up to three years or a fine not to exceed 500,000 yen

Providing a vehicle to an intoxicated person subsequently charged with DUI: Confinement up to five years or a fine up to one million yen

Providing a vehicle to an intoxicated person subsequently charged with DWI: Confinement up to three years or a fine not to exceed 500,000 yen

Providing alcohol to an intoxicated person subsequently charged with DUI: Confinement up to three years or a fine up to 500,000 yen

Providing alcohol to an intoxicated person subsequently charged with DWI: Confinement up to two years or a fine not to exceed 300,000 yen

Riding as passengers in a vehicle operated by an intoxicated person charged with DUI: Confinement up to three years or a fine up to 500,000 yen

Riding as passengers in a vehicle operated by an intoxicated person charged with DWI: Confinement up to two years or a fine not to exceed 300,000 yen

Marine 1st Lt. Michael Sickels, Marine Corps Base Provost Marshall's Office, said sobriety checkpoints are intended for everyone's safety. The lieutenant is the coordinator for this year's joint military 3D Drunk and Drugged Driving Prevention Campaign

"We're not out to 'get' anybody or bust them at these checkpoints," said Lieutenant Sickels. "Law enforcement members from all four services are onboard for community safety. Our intent is to educate the public and enforce the law as well."

The lieutenant reminds drivers that driving tired is the same as driving drunk.

"If people are overworked, they should rest first before attempting to drive home," said Lieutenant Sickels.

Through the Council for Okinawa Protection and Police Services, security forces members are working with those from the sister services to ensure everyone is safe and sober going into the New Year.