VCU police new campaign warns of drinking while driving risks

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Drunk drivers - watch out! There's an aggressive crackdown near VCU's campus. So far a spike of arrests this school year is on a trend that could exceed the total DUI arrests police made last year.

Police say they see it more than they should, people grabbing a drink and then grabbing their car keys to get behind the wheel. Now VCU police are stepping up their efforts to let you know they're watching.

"When I saw this at first, I was like are they confused? Is it a taxi? Is it a police car?" said student Tiffany Byrd.

This isn't a mistake.

"You can't walk by that car without turning your head," police chief John Venuti said.

He says it's an attention-grabber to make you think. A bright patrol car is making its rounds around campus, pointing out your choices: $20 to catch a cab or thousands of dollars when you face a DUI.

"As well as that offense being on your record for about 10 years," Venuti added.

Students say the shocking reminder helps.

"People say 'I'm not going to drive' but once you get the alcohol in your system it kind of changes your mind a bit," said student Al Fatheddin.

"I had a good friend that just recently got involved in an accident. Someone ended up hitting her and totaling her car. She's completely fine but it was terrifying to get a call in the middle of the night to say my car got hit and you come and get me," Byrd recalls the accident involving a drunk driver.

So far VCU police have made 148 DUI arrests this school year, a number that could soon exceed the 186 in all last school year. So are more students drinking?

"No. It's just part of our aggressive effort to enforce drunk driving," Venuti said.

He says a drunk driver doesn't have to be swerving to catch a trained officer's eye.

"They're stopped for a minor traffic infraction, my officers detect the odor of alcohol and if they are impaired or intoxicated they are going to jail," Venuti said.

The police chief adds only about 8% of those DUI arrests actually involve students but no matter who you are, their message is clear. If you drink and drive you will pay the price.

Bartenders at Baja Bean near VCU say they hand out cards to patrons with phone numbers to taxi companies. They will also restrict visitors from buying additional drinks if it appears they've had too much.

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