Law enforcement will be on point staging checkpoints and looking for violators of traffic laws during the holidays.
The goal is simple — keep motorists and passengers safe. The 2010 Christmas holiday period begins at 6 tonight and runs through 11:59 p.m. Sunday, while this year’s New Year’s holiday period will commence at 6 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 30, and will conclude at 11:59 p.m. Jan. 2.
Lt. W.G. Campbell said the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office Traffic Unit began its venture before Thanksgiving to curb drunk or reckless driving.
Tennessee Highway Patrol continually holds checkpoints.
“In conjunction with National Drunk and Drugged Driving Prevention Month, the Tennessee Highway Patrol will be cranking up its enforcement effort throughout the upcoming Christmas and New Year’s Day celebrations to find and remove impaired drivers from Tennessee roadways. State troopers will be conducting more than 100 sobriety and driver’s license checkpoints with a clear message to motorists — “Don’t Wreck the Holidays,” Campbell said. “Dead is dead.”
THP is also participating in the national campaign, “Drunk Driving. Over the Limit. Under Arrest.”
“Troopers will be working with law enforcement officers from hundreds of agencies across the state and country to remove impaired drivers from the road,” Department of Safety Commissioner Dave Mitchell said. “It’s our duty to ensure the public’s safety through education, regulation and especially enforcement; we take this responsibility seriously on holidays and all throughout the year.”
According to Tennessee Department of Safety, the holiday season is one of the deadliest and most dangerous times of the year due to an increase in impaired driving.
Last year 303 people died in Tennessee crashes involving a driver or motorcycle rider with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or higher. The figure represents a 1 percent decline from the 306 impaired driving deaths in 2008, and a 19.6 percent decline from the 377 impaired driving deaths in 2007.
“Troopers will spare no expense to keep drunk drivers off the road en route to saving lives this holiday season. If we catch you, we will arrest you,” said Col. Tracy Trott.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration stated that in December 2009, 753 people nationwide were killed in crashes involving a drunk driver with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or higher — down from 888 people killed in similar impaired driving crashes in December 2008.
During last year’s Christmas holiday period, six people were killed in crashes on Tennessee roadways.
The figure represents one death every 17 hours. Alcohol was involved in 33 percent of those crashes and 1 in 5 vehicle occupants killed were not wearing a safety restraint, according to data. Law enforcement urges motorists to always buckle up.
Thirteen people were killed during last year’s New Year’s holiday period and 23 percent of the fatalities occurred in alcohol-related crashes, figures indicated.
THP and local law enforcement provided a few safety tips for this holiday travel season. If you are planning to drink alcohol with family and friends, there are several simple steps to help avoid a tragic crash or trauma and the financial costs associated with an impaired driving arrest:
- Plan ahead: Whenever you plan on consuming alcohol, designate your sober driver before going out, and give that person your keys.
- If impaired, call a taxi, use mass transit or call a sober friend or family member to get you home safely.
- Wearing your seat belt or using protective gear when on your motorcycle is your best defense against an impaired driver.
- And remember, “Friends Don’t Let Friends Drive Drunk.” If you know someone who is about to drive or ride while impaired, take their keys and help them make other arrangements to get to where they are going safely.
- Violators often face jail time, the loss of their driver’s license, higher insurance rates and dozens of other unanticipated expenses from attorney fees, other fines and court costs, towing and repairs, lost time at work, etc.
Campbell said a fraction of a second can change lives forever — whether it be a fatal crash or one leaving the long-lasting effects of injuries, excluding the emotional toll on survivors.
“Remember — Buckle up, don’t drink and drive, plan ahead and arrive alive,” he said. “Dead is dead and that can’t be changed.”
THP has scheduled Driver’s License Roadside Safety Checkpoints at two locations during the holiday season. Times will vary but checkpoints will be established on Highway 11 near Charleston and on Benton Pike near Minnis Road.