Agencies set sights on drunk drivers

Published 6:00 am Monday, December 22, 2003

Drunk drivers better think twice before taking to the road thisholiday season, law enforcement officials warn.

The Mississippi Highway Safety Patrol began its Christmasholiday “DUI Blitz” Friday. The blitz will end after the new yearon Jan. 3, 2004, but there have been early results.

“We’ve already arrested a busload,” said Staff Sgt. RodCrawford, public affairs officer of MHP’s District 9, whichincludes Lincoln County.

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The DUI blitz is a concentrated effort by the MHP to targetintoxicated drivers by focusing more on traffic violators andestablishing roadblocks to check drivers for the influence ofalcohol or drugs.

“The MHP will be actively engaged in DUI enforcement and seatbelt or other occupant details,” Crawford said.

So active, Crawford said, that some troopers will work on theirscheduled days off. That will give District 9 109 DUI enforcementdetails plus 34 seat belt details, he said.

“This will double our manpower,” Crawford said.

One fatality was reported in District 9 Saturday.

A McComb man, Larry C. Jackson, 36, was killed eight miles westof Liberty on Highway 48 when his pickup left the road and hit anembankment, Crawford said.

Investigators believe the brakes on Jackson’s 1984 model GMCfailed after the left rear tire blew out, Crawford said. Jackson,who was ejected from the vehicle, was pronounced dead at thescene.

Other law enforcement agencies are also keeping a look out forproblem drivers.

“We’ll participate in a small way,” said Lawrence County SheriffJoel Thames. “We won’t have as many roadblocks as the MHP does, butwe’ll be out there.”

Although the department is currently shorthanded, Thames said,he will be calling in reserve deputies to operate roadblocks underthe supervision of a full-time deputy.

“We’re going to do what we can to keep people safe and get DUIviolators off the road,” he said.

Thames estimated the department will conduct between 8-10roadblocks from now until Jan. 1. The roadblocks will be madewhenever possible, but will mostly be held during the weekend whenintoxicated drivers are more apt to be traveling.

“We want to get them when their holiday spirits are flowing,” hesaid.

Lincoln County Sheriff Lynn Boyte said his county will also befocusing more on influenced drivers.

“We’ll be doing what we can with the manpower we have,” he said.”People can expect to see them in the county as time permits.”

The blitz occurs every year, Boyte said, and they were preparedfor it.

“Drinking and driving is always a problem,” he said.”Traditionally, vacation times and holidays, especially Christmasand the new year, are the worst with people trying to do so manythings in such a short time and not taking the time to sleep itoff. There are more parties, too.”

Innocent victims often pay with their lives for theirresponsibility of drunk drivers, he said, and that’s notsomething those who have been drinking think about before theyclimb behind the wheel.

“A lot of people think law enforcement is the enemy out therewhen we make DUI arrests, but we’ve seen what it can do. We’ve hadto comfort the families after an accident,” Boyte said.

The sheriff said he can still remember his first DUI fatalityaccident. It occurred when he was new to his career, and ColemanLee was sheriff of Lincoln County. A young girl lost control of hervehicle and hit a pine tree.

“Some things you just never forget,” he said. “People don’tthink it will happen to them. They know it happens, but don’tbelieve it would ever happen to them. We hear that a lot.”

Thames and Boyte encouraged people to drink responsibility thisholiday season and avoid driving after consuming even onedrink.