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Police beef up sobriety patrols during campaignOriginally Published August 25, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated August 24, 2013 at 4:02 p.m.
If someone thinks they can stop off for a few adult beverages before heading on home, now would be a good time to rethink that idea.
Police forces around the country, including the Hot Springs Police Department and the Benton Police Department, have lots of officers on the streets and highways of their communities during the annual Labor Day crackdown on drunk driving that is going on now through the Labor Day weekend.
The campaign is called Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over, and Hot Springs Police Chief David Flory said his officers are working overtime to take those who drink and drive off the road.
“The Hot Springs police will be looking aggressively for drunk drivers during the crackdown and will arrest anyone caught driving drunk,” he said. “It is simply not worth the risk, so don’t take chances.”
Lt. Kevin Russell of the Benton Police Department said the patrols are increased every year at the end of summer and during the first weeks of school.
“We have seen arrests for drunk driving go up in the warmer months and the holidays,” he said. “Grants were awarded to cover overtime for increased patrols. We have also used the funds to increase public awareness of the problem and our crackdown.”
During the Labor Day holiday in 2011, 138 people in the U.S. were killed in motor-vehicle crashes involving drivers or motorcycle riders with blood-alcohol levels over the legal limits, according to Benton police. Of those fatalities, 83 percent occurred between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.
In the past, Benton police have conducted surprise checkpoints in the city, checking licenses and watching drivers for signs of alcohol or drug use. Russell said it is possible that the Benton police could operate checkpoints this year.
“It takes a log of logistics, but it is possible,” he said. “We would not release if, when or where it could be, only that it is possible.”
National reports state that there is a drunk-driving fatality every 53 minutes in the U.S.,” Flory said.
Russell said research has proven that high-visibility enforcement
like the current campaign reduces drunk-driving fatalities by as much as 20 percent.
“By joining this nationwide effort,” he said, “we will make Benton’s roadways safer for everyone throughout the Labor Day period.
A driving-while-impaired conviction can carry a wide range of negative results into one’s life, Russell said.
“Drunk drivers face jail time, loss of driver’s licenses and steep financial consequences, such as higher insurance rates, attorney fees, court fees, lost time at work and the potential loss of a job. When family, friends and co-workers also find out, violators also often face a lot of embarrassment.”
Drunk driving also hits young drivers hard. Russell said that in 2011, 42 percent of the drivers between 18 and 34 years old killed in traffic accidents were impaired by alcohol.
Cpl. McCrary Means of the Hot Springs Police Department said there will be many more night patrols in the city, not only by members of special operations who routinely patrol the city’s streets, but other officers from the Police Department will be out, increasing the chance of catching those who are drinking and driving.
Along with anti-drunk-driving patrols and checkpoints, Benton police will be looking at drivers and passengers to make sure they are wearing their seat belts.
“The national rate of drivers buckling up is about 83 percent,” Russell said. “In Benton, it runs about 10 percent lower.”
While Benton officers can crack down on those not using their seat belts, they have elected to be more positive by rewarding drivers who are stopped by giving them food gift coupons for wearing their seat belts.
“I know they can see us coming, but we see good rates of seat-belt use when we patrol around looking to give out awards,” Russell said.
While the Labor Day weekend is still a week away, police in both cities said the Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign, and the patrol cars on the lookout, are in full swing
“If you choose to drive impaired,” Russell said, “you will be arrested — no warnings, no excuses.”
Staff writer Wayne Bryan can be contacted at (501) 244-4460 or at email@example.com.
Tri-Lakes Edition Writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at 501-244-4460 or firstname.lastname@example.org.