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"It is a trend that law enforcement officials, as well as citizens, hope will continue â€” the decrease of DWI arrests during the Christmas and New Year's Eve celebrations," Benton Lt. Kevin Russell said.
Every year, the Benton police participate in the national "Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over" campaign which is designed to remind motorists that if they become intoxicated, leave the keys behind and get either a sober drive to care for them or hail a taxi. It is a decision that could save their own life, and the lives of other people traveling on the roadways. The campaign generally lasts three weeks, beginning just before Christmas and ending the second day of January.
Russell said during the 2008-2009 Drive Sober campaign, there were 17 people arrested for DWI. But in 2009-2010, the number of DWI arrests dramatically decreased to just five. The 2010-2011 holiday season saw that number jump to 10 DWI arrests, but the most recent, 2011-2012 campaign, there were eight DWI arrests.
"With the decrease versus four years ago, I would like to think that hopefully the public is listening to our efforts to prevent DWIs, and that the education on dangers of drinking and driving are taking root in people," Russell said. "Unfortunately, there are still millions of drivers on Americaâ€™s highways that still think they are invincible, and they choose to jeopardize their safety and the safety of others on our roads. But it is very encouraging to see the DWI arrests, at least during the Drive Sober campaign, on the decrease."
He added, "We do all we can to spread the message, from public information releases where we emphasize the dangers associated with drunk driving and the consequences associated with that behavior. Our School Resource Officers also teach classes to high school drivers, or potential drivers, about drinking and driving, as well as distracted driving such as texting and driving."
Russell said the school resource officers also sometimes break out the Fatal Vision Googles, which simulates "different levels of intoxication" and allow the students to drive a golf cart on a course, which is monitored by the officers. Russell said the Fatal Vision Googles course can help show "the true level of the dangers of drunk driving."
Though the national Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign maybe set for a certain time period each year, Russell reminds all motorists that law enforcement officers continuously keep an eye out for intoxicated drivers, no matter the time of year.
"It is something that we take very seriously," Russell said. "Keeping an eye out for intoxicated drivers will always remain on the front burner to keep our citizens safe. The bottom line is that, if you plan to consume alcohol, you should also plan not to get behind the wheel of a vehicle or ride a motorcycle."
Nearly 11,000 people across the nation will die in drunk driving crashes in 2012, roughly one death every 50 minutes, according to Mother's Against Drunk Driving. Arkansas ranks 25th in total traffic deaths that are related to driving intoxicated, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. NHTSA data show that last year, 10,228 people were killed in alcohol-impaired driving crashes, including 415 during the second half of December alone.
In 2010, Arkansas had 34,554 three-time DUI offenders; 14,417 five-time DUI offenders; and 173 DUI fatalities that sets the state subsidy of drunk driving fatalities at $778 million. In the past five years, there have been 898 DUI fatalities costing the state subsidy of drunk driving fatalities at $4.04 billion.
For more information visit www.stopimpaireddriving.org, www.bentonpolice.org or www.scsosheriff.org.