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CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — The holidays are a time for parties and fun but military and local police are warning that they will be out in full force looking for impaired drivers.

Drunken driving has serious consequences, said Marine 2nd Lt. Michael A Sickels, coordinator for this year’s joint military 3D Drunk and Drugged Driving Prevention Campaign.

"Your driving privileges will be revoked immediately and you have the possibility of your driving privileges being suspended for your remainder of your time on the island," Sickles said.

Military police will man random checkpoints at all Okinawa bases throughout the month, he said.

Okinawa police launched a driving impaired prevention campaign last week. It will continue until Jan. 4, a police spokesman said Monday.

The consequences of driving intoxicated off base can be "tremendous," Sickles warned.

In 2007, Japan tightened its laws making the legal limit .03 percent blood alchohol content.

That means one drink can put you at the Japanese limit, Sickles said.

The new laws have made passengers and those providing the alcohol just as culpable as the intoxicated driver. Punishments for driving under the influence off base include up to three years in jail and fines up to $5,000.

Although the number of DUI cases has decreased in recent years, Okinawa continues to lead the country, the police spokesman said.

There were more than 5,200 DUI arrests last year, he said. As of Thursday, there were 37 traffic fatalities in 2008, nine of which were alcohol-related.

"To clean this tarnished image of Okinawa," the spokesman said, "we will make an all-out effort to crack down on offenders."

But police cannot do it alone, Sickles said.

"We preach the buddy system for everything," he said. "So, why can’t your buddies say, ‘Hey, this isn’t a good idea to drive if you’ve been drinking.’ It’s our responsibility to make sure everyone gets back safe from the holidays."

Stars and Stripes reporter Chiyomi Sumida contributed to this report.


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