Official: Tally shows DUI effort was needed

TUPELO – After the first 13 days of operation, the state’s “Over the Limit, Under Arrest” campaign had resulted in more than 21,000 tickets written across the state.
The campaign is part of a nationwide initiative to get drunk drivers off the streets and highways. Mississippi Public Safety Commissioner Steve Simpson said seeing so many people arrested and ticketed shows the campaign’s necessity.
“One of my biggest goals is to make our highways safer,” said Simpson. “This ‘Over the Limit, Under Arrest’ campaign is an example of that. It has really helped to decrease a lot of drunk-driving accidents, and alcohol-related deaths, but the numbers show that a lot still needs to be done and not only during the Labor Day weekend, but year-round.”
The campaign ends Sept. 8.
About 370 people have been arrested and charged with DUI during the campaign. There also have been 10 people killed in accidents, with at least two of those being alcohol-related.
Simpson said that in 2008, the state had 266 alcohol-related fatalities. Even though that number represented a decline of 15.8 percent, Simpson was still dismayed.
“Decrease or not, 266 people to be killed in alcohol-related accidents is entirely too high,” he said. “Those numbers are staggering.”
Aside from focusing on making the highways safer, Simpson said plans are being discussed to lighten the load of the state medical examiner’s office by possibly opening one in the northern part of the state.
The medical examiner’s office is in Jackson and all bodies are sent there for autopsies, which often causes delays.
“A full-time medical examiner’s office in north Mississippi will be beneficial to the area and to the state,” said Simpson. “That way bodies won’t have to be transferred all the way to Jackson and then all the way back to north Mississippi. We want to hire a medical examiner who will work strictly in the northern part of the state.”
Simpson said there aren’t any funds to build a facility to house a medical examiner’s office but he hopes to partner with a hospital in the region where autopsies can be conducted.

Contact Danza Johnson at (662) 678-1583 or danza.johnson@djournal.com.

Danza Johnson/NEMS Daily Journal