TUPELO – Today marks the first day of Mississippi’s annual “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” DUI enforcement campaign.
For the rest of December, until Jan. 1, participating Mississippi law enforcement agencies will increase patrols and are encouraged to maintain a zero-tolerance policy for impaired driving.
Officers from agencies all over the Troop F region (Benton, Tippah, Alcorn, Tishomingo, Prentiss, Union, Pontotoc, Lee and Itawamba counties) met Thursday at Cravin’ Catfish in Sherman to talk about reducing the number of DUI fatalities.
Twyla Jennings of the Mississippi Office of Highway Safety said Mississippi had the highest percentage decrease in traffic-related fatalities from 2011 to 2012 among all 50 states.
Mississippi has had its number of traffic fatalities decline each year since 2008. Jennings also said the number of alcohol-related traffic fatalities was also on the decline each year until 2012. In 2011, alcohol-related traffic fatalities fell from 174 to 159. The following year, alcohol-related crashes claimed 179 lives statewide. Vehicle crashes were responsible for 64 deaths in Troop F in 2012, 19 of those alcohol-related.
“We’re asking everyone to focus on DUIs and try to keep everyone we can alive,” said Sherman Police Chief Joel Spellins, who is also in charge of organizing the campaign for the region. “We’ve had a bad rash of fatal crashes in the area in the last few weeks and we’re seeing a lot of seat belt violations too.”
The enforcement campaigns are also a chance for law enforcement agencies to apply for grant money to add overtime officers during enforcement periods. Jennings said her office helps distribute about $3 million in federal grant money for use in enforcement periods.
“It’s extremely important to get the message out, not just during the holiday season, but year-round, that we must stop impaired driving in order to save lives in Mississippi’s roadways,” she said.