State and local law enforcement agencies in Arkansas will partner with the U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), this holiday season to save lives by keeping alcohol and drug impaired drivers off the roads. Beginning this week (Friday, December 13th - January1st), Arkansas State Troopers and other law enforcement officers will join together in a high-visibility national enforcement campaign.
"Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over" is a "no excuses" "zero tolerance" operation in which law enforcement officers increase their patrol presence with additional emphasis directed to identifying and arresting drivers who may be impaired by alcohol or drugs. The campaign also includes an increase in state and national messaging about the dangers of driving impaired.
It is illegal in all 50 states to operate a motor vehicle while impaired by alcohol or drugs. Avoiding arrest and expenses of court fines and higher insurance rates begins with never getting into the driver's seat of a motor vehicle while impaired.
Many drivers fail to realize the risks. During 2018 there were 10,511 people killed in drunk driving crashes, one every 50 minutes, according to the NHTSA Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS).
The analysis of data over a five year span (2014-2018) indicates, on average, 10,000 killed each year, the equivalent of 20 jumbo jets crashing during a single year without survivors.
According to the FARS 2017 database, 45% of the drivers killed in fatal crashes who were tested for drugs, tested positive. This is why Arkansas law enforcement officers are working with NHTSA to remind drivers that impaired driving is not only illegal, it is a matter of life and death.
"The holiday season should be a happy time for our all our state's citizens and visitors," said Searcy County Chief Deputy Dewayne Pierce. "We cannot underestimate the importance of sober driving and no matter what substance anyone has ingested, if you're impaired, you should not be driving."
Something as unassuming as cold medications or an over-the-counter sleep aid has the ability to impair a driver and lead to a DWI arrest. Anyone taking a new prescription drug or a higher dose of a current prescription drug, should avoid driving until its known what effect the drug may have on the individual. Any effect could impair a person's driving ability. One medication may not directly impair a person, but mixed with a second prescription drug and alcohol could cause impairment. Any form of impaired driving is illegal.
"Driving impaired is a choice," said Chief Pierce. "I encourage everyone to make the right choice and find a sober driver if they have been drinking or ingested any drug that caused impairment."
State and local law enforcement recommend these safe alternatives to impaired driving:
If you have ingested an impairing substance, such as alcohol, marijuana, prescription drugs, sleep medication, or any form of illegal drug, do not drive. Passengers should never ride with an impaired driver. If you think a driver may be impaired, do not get in the car.
If you are alcohol- or drug-impaired, pass the keys to a sober driver who can safely drive you to your final destination or plan to use public transportation or a ride sharing service to get home safely. It is never okay to drive while impaired by any substance.
Have a friend who is about to drive while impaired by alcohol or drugs? Take the keys away and arrange to get them home safely. Don't worry about offending someone- they'll thank you later.
If you see an impaired driver on the road, contact your local law enforcement. Your actions could help save someone's life.
For more information about the 2019 Holiday Season Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign, visit https://www/trafficsafetymarketing.gov/get-materials/drunk-driving/holiday-season/peak-enforcement-kit or call the Arkansas Highway Safety Office at (501) 618-8136. For information on Arkansas' "Toward Zero Deaths" campaign to eliminate preventable traffic fatalities, visit www.TZDarkansas.org . To report a local situation, call the Searcy County Sheriff's Office at 870.448.2340.