Roanoke-area law enforcement officials announce plan to crack down on Labor Day drunken driving

22 DUI checkpoints, 180 saturation patrols to be conducted

ROANOKE COUNTY, Va. – As Labor Day approaches, Roanoke-area law enforcement agencies are cracking down on drunk driving.

The effort is part of an annual statewide campaign.

If you're driving in Virginia between now and Labor Day, expect to see a lot of law enforcement.

At a news conference Thursday afternoon, Roanoke County Police Chief Howard Hall said the Roanoke Valley is no exception.

"In the Roanoke area alone, we'll have 28 agencies operating 22 checkpoints and 180 saturation patrols," Hall said.

On Wednesday night, Martinsville police set up a checkpoint.

The department also tweeted out a message, asking people not to drink and drive.

Lynchburg police are doing "stepped up enforcement" but the department will not release any details until the enforcement is over.

"We want to remind everybody that driving is a privilege," Hall said.

The annual statewide Checkpoint Strikeforce campaign is organized by the Washington Regional Alcohol Program.

Program President Kurt Erickson said new research emphasizes the need for the campaign.

"It absolutely does when you're talking about the highest level of drunk driving fatalities that Virginia's had in half a decade. But not just that, also drunk driving arrests are up, drunk driving convictions are up," Erickson said.

A TV commercial encouraging people not to drink and drive will also air between now and Labor Day.

Acting Roanoke County Commonwealth Attorney Aaron Lavinder emphasized during the news conference the punishment for DUI offenses in Virginia is significant.

"Penalties for even a first offense DUI offense ...include a sentence of up to 12 months in jail and a fine of up to $2,500," Lavinder said. "With all the options (to get around without driving) that are available in this day and age, there's no reason someone should get behind the wheel of a motor vehicle when they're under the influence."

The campaign will continue around all of the major holidays through the end of the year.