The Maine Bureau of Highway Safety has awarded federal grants totaling $123,810 to 38 police and sheriff’s departments to help them with drunken-driving enforcement.

The money will be used to pay overtime for officers on special duty working solely on the detection and apprehension of drivers under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Grants range from $2,000 to $5,000, said Richard E. Perkins, director of the Maine Bureau of Highway Safety.

“Most of the enforcement work will occur in the summer months because that is the most dangerous time in Maine for drunken-driving violations,” Perkins said.

Some departments will use the money at other times of the year to meet regional needs, such as skier traffic in the winter.

The money will be used for roadblocks by some and by others to fund OUI patrols.

Maine’s drunken-driving rate reached an all-time low in 2002, Perkins said. Last year’s rate of alcohol-related highway deaths was 19.2 percent (42 of 192 deaths). The rate in 1980 was 60 percent; in 1990 it was 38 percent.

Perkins attributed the decline to better enforcement by police, stiffer penalties and increased public awareness.


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