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COLUMBUS -- The crackdown on drunken driving came well before Labor Day weekend this year.
Extra officers have been deployed throughout the state since Friday and will remain there through the holiday, looking for impaired drivers.
Yesterday, officials from the State Highway Patrol and other police agencies announced details of the crackdown, part of a nationwide "Over the limit, under arrest" campaign.
In Ohio, federal grants will pay for more than 5,000 overtime hours for officers to patrol roads and conduct 29 sobriety checkpoints during the enforcement period, which concludes Sept. 1.
In Franklin County, police departments in Columbus, Bexley, Dublin, Gahanna, Grove City, Hilliard, Westerville and Worthington will increase the number of officers on the roads, said Sgt. Rich Weiner, a Columbus police spokesman.
If a suspected drunken driver in Franklin County refuses a breath test, the officers will seek a search warrant for a blood test. Weiner said 11 of 15 Franklin County Municipal Court judges have agreed to participate in the program during the enforcement period.
Columbus police used the same "no refusal" compliance policy during the July 3-5 holiday period. Weiner said search warrants were used to obtain blood samples from four suspected drunken drivers.
In addition to increased police presence, the nationwide program includes $11 million in paid advertising to raise public awareness about the crackdown.
Col. Richard H. Collins, superintendent of the Highway Patrol, said years of similar crackdowns and public-awareness campaigns have made a difference.
"When I came on the patrol in 1980, about half of all fatal crashes involved alcohol," he said. "Today, it's 20 to 25 percent."
The number of alcohol-related crashes in Ohio has declined steadily in the past six years, from 17,560 in 2002 to 15,054 in 2007.