Law officers remind Labor Day drivers to stay sober

In the midst of Labor Day preparation, some people become distracted by their last attempt at a summer vacation. The three-day weekend – falling on Aug. 30 through Sept. 2 this year – brings out a final hooray for many before the season has inevitably come to its conclusion.

Unfortunately, that last barbecue is sometimes accompanied by a few beers before a ride home.

Like all major holidays, Labor Day is full of travelers; the casual motorists out to visit family or squeeze in their last trip to the beach before that first autumn leaf hits the ground. In fact, according to the American Automobile Association, there will be nearly 35 million people traveling and 85.7 percent of them will be taking their cars. The high volume of traffic combined with a vacation attitude can be a dangerous mix.

In America, one out of three traffic deaths are alcohol-related, killing nearly 13,000 people every year and injuring countless others. The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence reported that more than 1.4 million arrests are made for driving while intoxicated each year, which is less than one percent of the 159 million self-reported episodes of alcohol-impaired driving.

A report released from the Office of Mississippi Highway Safety said over the Labor Day weekend in the United States in 2012, one person was killed every 34 minutes, on average, in an alcohol-impaired-driving crash.

“Among drivers killed in traffic crashes over the Labor Day holiday period in 2012, about 41 percent of them were impaired,” said Mississippi Department of Public Safety Commissioner Albert Santa Cruz.

This Labor Day Weekend the Mississippi Highway Patrol will be beefing up its Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign. The program is a combination of law enforcement and education. The high-visibility crackdown will begin Friday, Aug. 29, and will continue through Monday, Sept. 1.

“We’re targeting this time period because holiday weekends bring a surge in drunk driving,” said Mississippi Department of Public Service Col. Donnell Berry. “The public can expect increased enforcement saturation during this time period. There will be additional patrols, especially at night, when drunk driving is most prevalent,” Berry said.

“We will be actively looking for drunk drivers, so don’t get behind a wheel if you’ve been drinking, and prevent someone who has been drinking from driving,” Berry added.

Local law enforcement will also be monitoring streets and roads in Brookhaven and Lincoln County for drinking and driving. The highway patrol, sheriff’s department and police department will all be vigilant throughout the holiday and warn anyone planning on drinking to stay off the roads.

Sgt. Brandon Fortenberry with Mississippi Highway Patrol Troop M said that in District 9, troopers will conduct driver’s license checkpoints and extra troopers will be working. District 9, which is monitored by Troop M, includes Lincoln, Adams, Amite, Franklin, Jefferson, Lawrence, Pike, Walthall and Wilkinson counties.

“The purpose of the detail is to keep everyone safe as they travel across dangerous highways that we often overlook,” said Fortenberry.” So as you travel to your destination over the holiday period, use caution and drive safe to lower the accident level.”

Lincoln County Sheriff Steve Rushing said deputies will be using extra patrol on the county roads this holiday weekend. “The goal is to get out and patrol county roads and make sure that we are visible,” said Rushing.

The Brookhaven Police Department will be focusing their attention on stores and businesses. Police Chief Bobby Bell said they will be patrolling but that no major roadblocks are planned for the weekend in the city.

This year’s Mississippi law enforcement hopes to improve on 2013 statistics. Over last year’s Labor Day weekend, there were 15 fatalities in the state, and eight of those were alcohol related. Three of them involved persons ages 16-20.

“We want drivers to know that we don’t tolerate drunk driving. No excuses, no warnings: if drivers are caught driving impaired, they will be arrested. And if our crackdown prevents one crash or saves one person from a serious injury or death, we will consider it a success,” concluded Commissioner Santa Cruz.