Officials of the Arkansas State Police Highway Safety Office and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced recently the launch of a statewide public safety campaign intended to make Arkansas highways and roads safer during the holiday season.
“Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” is a nationwide initiative involving state, county and city law enforcement officers. It will be implemented during the period leading up to the New Year holiday.
Among those attending a recent news conference at State Police Headquarters were Colonel Stan Witt, Director of the Arkansas State Police and Governor’s Highway Safety Representative along with Christopher J. Murphy, Regional Administrator, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Region 7.
“Arkansas motorists can expect an increase in saturation patrols and sobriety checkpoints, anytime, anywhere,” said Colonel Witt. “Drunk driving is a crime that will not be tolerated. State Troopers and other law enforcement officers will not be looking for excuses. If you’re caught driving impaired by alcohol or drugs, you will be arrested and taken to jail.”
A comparison of national crash data limited to the month of December in 2007-2011 indicates 4,169 people were killed in crashes that involved a driver or motorcycle operator with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or higher.
“Impaired drivers make December one of the deadliest months to be on the road,” said Christopher Murphy, Regional Administrator NHTSA Region 7. “Each December hundreds of people die on the nation’s roadways because of impaired drivers – senseless deaths that could be avoided by one simple action – by not being under the influence of alcohol and/or illegal drugs. This December, don’t deprive someone of their chance to be home for the holidays next year. Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over, it’s not worth the risk.”
Arkansas has seen a 20 percent reduction in drunk driving deaths since 2010. Colonel Witt attributed the decline to aggressive law enforcement activities along with safer vehicles and the actions of organizations like Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Arkansas recorded 143 alcohol-related fatalities in 2012, down from 178 in 2010.
Arkansas is also below the national average in alcohol related fatalities. The national average is 31 percent of all highway deaths. Arkansas ranks at 26 percent.
“Although we have seen reductions in incidents of drunk driving, one death is too many. Countless numbers of people continue to suffer due to serious injuries or the emotional trauma associated with losing a friend or family member as a result of this serious crime,” Colonel Witt said.
The Arkansas State Police Highway Safety Office recommends:
1) Always plan ahead and whenever you expect to consume alcohol, designate a sober driver before going out and give that person your keys.
2) If you have been drinking, call a taxi, take the bus or call a sober friend or family member to get you to your destination safely.
Promptly report drunk drivers you see on the roadways to law enforcement.
3) Always wear your safety belt or use protective gear while on a motorcycle.
Their suggestions are your best defense against an impaired driver.
North Little Rock is joining forces with state police in enforcing drunk driving laws this holiday season, according to Brian Dedrick, public information officer for the North Little Rock Police Department.
“Law enforcement agencies across the state are preparing to provide additional protection for travelers along Arkansas roadways this holiday season,” said Dedrick.
The Arkansas State Police Highway Safety Office has joined with Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) in announcing Arkansas’s participation in the national law enforcement and public media campaign, “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over.”
“Focusing on the Christmas and New Year holidays, Dec. 14 to Jan. 1, Arkansas law enforcement agencies will conduct saturation patrols and sobriety checkpoints to identify and arrest impaired drivers,” said Witt.
“If your celebration includes drinking alcohol, please celebrate responsibly, don’t take a chance, because chances are you’ll be caught,” Colonel Witt stated. “The choice is yours. Designate a driver or one will be appointed for you, straight to jail.”
Dedrick said last year 34 percent of all the traffic fatalities in Arkansas were alcohol related. This translates into 190 lives lost on Arkansas roadways in one year due to alcohol related motor vehicle crashes.
For more information on the 2013 holiday “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” campaign, visit www.trafficsafetymarketing.gov or contact the Arkansas Highway Safety Office at 618-8136.