The festivities of Christmas and New Year holidays is often mixed with good cheer leading to tragedies on Arkansas roadways. This year the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) is partnering with law enforcement agencies across the state to share the message about the dangers of drunk driving.
Beginning this weekend (December 16th – January 1st), Arkansas State Troopers and law enforcement officers from local departments will be working together to get impaired drivers off the road. The Arkansas Highway Safety Office asks everyone to remember, “Driver Sober or Get Pulled Over”.
According to NHTSA officials, 11,654 people were killed during 2020 in motor vehicle crashes that involved alcohol impaired drivers. Averages from that year show one person was killed in a drunk driving crash every 45 minutes. Between 2016 – 2020, on average, more than 10,000 people died each year because of drunk driving crashes.
To reduce the chances of future drunk driving crashes, Arkansas law enforcement officers are working together with NHTSA to remind drivers that drunk driving is not only illegal but also a matter of life and death.
“It’s so important that drivers act responsibly, and refrain from driving if they’ve consumed a beverage containing alcohol,” said Colonel Bill Bryant, Director of the Arkansas State Police and the Governor’s Highway Safety Representative. “The holidays are a special time of year for everyone and it’s our job in state and local law enforcement to keep the highways and local streets safe for everyone by arresting anyone who is driving while impaired.”
Federal law, as well as laws in most states around the country, make it illegal to operate a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol level (BAC) of .08 or higher and the penalties for impaired driving can be severe. If a driver is convicted of driving while intoxicated, the person could face jail time, lose their driver’s license and pay up to $10,000 in attorney’s fees, court fines, higher insurance premiums, and experience lost wages.
Designated drivers are a valuable tool for reducing impaired driving. If you are a designated driver, be sure to stay hydrated with water and other non-alcoholic beverages and actively support other designated drivers. Being a designated driver can be difficult, but it’s important to remember that many people are counting on you, particularly other drivers, passengers, and pedestrians on the streets. A designated driver should remain sober and drive safe while on the road.
“We need a commitment from drivers to stay off the roads if they’ve been drinking alcohol,” said Colonel Bryant. “This will help ensure everyone can safely enjoy their holiday celebrations when traveling across the state.”
The stepped-up holiday enforcement period allows law enforcement to get the message out that drunk driving is illegal and deadly. The Arkansas State Police and its Highway Safety Office recommends these safe alternatives to drinking and driving:
• It’s never okay to drink and drive. Even if you’ve had one alcoholic beverage, designate a sober driver or plan to use public transportation to get to your destination safely. Plan a safe way home before you leave.
• If you’ve been drinking, call a taxi, ride-share service, or a designated driver to drive you home.
• If you see an impaired driver on the road, call 9-1-1.
• If you know someone who is about to drive or operate a motorcycle or any other vehicle while impaired, take their keys and help them make other arrangements to get to their destination safely.
• Always buckle up. A properly secured seat belt is the best defense against a drunk driver.
For more information on impaired driving, visit https://www.nhtsa.gov/risky-driving/drunk-driving or call the Arkansas Highway Safety Office at (501) 618-8136. For more on Arkansas’ ongoing Toward Zero Deaths campaign to eliminate preventable traffic fatalities, visit www.TZDArkansas.org .