May 1, 2009

Potential Drunk Drivers To Get Text Messages

The South Dakota Department of Safety has taken on an unorthodox approach to encouraging citizens not to drive after drinking alcohol.

In March, the SDDPS began sending out text messages to drivers to warn them about future sobriety checkpoints. The goal of the texting campaign is to discourage drunk driving, said Brooke Bohnenkamp, spokeswoman for SDDPS.

So far, over 700 people have signed up for the texting list. Those citizens are alerted of the time and the county location of upcoming checkpoints, however they are not given specific checkpoint locations, Bohnenkamp told USA Today.

"Males 18 to 35 are the people we're still trying to reach," said Jonathan Adkins, a spokesman for the Governors Highway Safety Association. They tend to get information from text messages sent to their cellphones, BlackBerrys and other devices, he adds.

The program is unprecedented in all 50 states, Adkins said, and it is being welcomed by such organizations as AAA and Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

Heidi Castle, a national spokeswoman for Mothers Against Drunk Driving, told USA Today that the text campaign is a "great idea."

"You want to stop them before they get on the road," said Castle.

"It may deter some from making a deadly decision," adds Troy Green, a national spokesman for AAA.

"There are a lot of ways to be responsible when you drink. But only one is downright civilized "“ knowing not to drink and drive," says the department's Web site, actcivilized.com.

Col. Dan Mosteller, head of the South Dakota highway patrol, admitted he understands that "announcing checkpoint locations might seem counterproductive to some."

"We far prefer to prevent them from drinking and driving altogether," said Bohnenkamp.

"If it causes you to think twice, or to call for a ride, or to walk home, that's good news."


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