A new Pima County Sheriff's Office campaign dubbed "Operation Would U Like Fries" will target drunken driving by putting undercover deputies inside 24-hour fast-food restaurants to spot impaired drivers placing their orders.
If deputies notice someone with classic symptoms of impairment — slurred speech, red or watery eyes or beer breath — they will have a uniformed deputy stationed outside pull the driver over, said Sgt. Doug Hanna, a DUI unit supervisor.
If field tests confirm the driver is impaired, he or she will face an arrest for driving under the influence.
"The idea is to get them before they get back on the road," Hanna said.
Hanna said money for the intermittent program is coming from a $128,000 grant from the Governor's Office of Highway Safety for fiscal year 2008-2009. The grant also funds sobriety checkpoints and other anti-drunken-driving programs.
Several local franchise owners and managers are interested in participating in the program, but are waiting for corporate approval, Hanna said.
Once that happens, Hanna said he anticipates the program would take place every quarter or so.
Defense attorney Joseph St. Louis questioned the allocation of resources during tough economic times and the legality of such a program.
He said law-enforcement agencies spend a lot of money training officers to spot impaired drivers — and now those officers will be stuck behind a drive-through window.
"I can't wait to challenge the first one in court," he said.
Hanna said the new program is just another tool for law-enforcement agencies to use in battling drunken driving. The more deputies out in the community — whether they are at checkpoints, on the roads, or at drive-through windows — the more likely the message will get out.
"Hopefully, people will start getting the message — Don't drive impaired," he said.