Crack down on impaired driving to begin Friday

Beginning Friday, law enforcement agencies throughout Arkansas will team up in an effort to get drunk and impaired drivers off the roadways during the holiday season.

The Arkansas State Police Highway Safety Office and Mothers Against Drunk Driving will participate in the national campaign called “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over,” which will run through Jan. 1.

State Police Director Col. Stan Witt said troopers will conduct saturation patrols and sobriety checkpoints to identify and arrest impaired drivers.

“If your celebration includes drinking alcohol, please celebrate responsibly and don’t take a chance because chances are you will get caught,” Witt said. “The choice is yours. Designate a driver or one will be appointed for you, straight to jail.”

Witt said that last year, 34 percent of all traffic fatalities in Arkansas were alcohol related, which translates into 190 deaths.

“State Troopers will join other state and local law enforcement officers across Arkansas in making sure Arkansas roadways are safe,” he said.

Major Lafayette Woods Jr. of the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department said deputies will maximize their efforts during the holiday season, particularly looking for impaired drivers.

“We’re going to be increasing our patrols as we do every year at this time and be especially watchful for people who violate traffic laws,” Woods said.

Pam Sell, the Arkansas program manager of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, supports the effort.

“Drunk driving crashes are not accidents. These crashes are entirely preventable if motorists would forego a holiday activity that can often lead to tragedy, getting behind the wheel of a motor vehicle after drinking or using other drugs.”

To reduce the possibility of allowing people who have been drinking or using drugs from driving, MADD suggested that party hosts include alcohol free beverages and protein-rich foods, along with reminding guests to plan ahead.

MADD also recommended that if people plan to drive, they shouldn’t drink.

“If you drink, choose a sober, designated driver. Take a taxicab or ask someone to get you to your destination if you have been drinking. Report impaired drivers to law enforcement and always wear your safety belt,” MADD said.

“The Arkansas State Police works every day to reduce the number of injuries and deaths associated with traffic crashes,” Witt said. “Drunk driving is a crime and will not be tolerated.”