By NEMS Daily Journal
The Mississippi Highway Patrol, as expected and as necessary, has set another tough crackdown on drunken driving as the frenzied conclusion of the winter holiday seasons rushes to start on Friday.
“We want families traveling for the holidays to arrive at their destinations safely, and we want them returning home with no problems as well,” said Col. Donnell Berry, director of the patrol.
Troopers will go into a familiar holiday operation with all available manpower.
The patrol will look for drunken drivers and also for distracted drivers, like people using texting and other cellphone functions.
The Highway Patrol has projected 655 traffic deaths for the year, a figure that marks the first increase in six years.
Since 2005, traffic fatalities decreased about 33 percent, from 936, across Mississippi.
The New Year’s holiday traffic count is from 6 p.m. Dec. 30 to midnight Jan. 1, a traditional time of revelry and copious alcohol consumption.
Albert Santa Cruz, Mississippi Department of Public Safety commissioner, said, “One lost life to a traffic accident is too many. In 2010, 231 people were killed in alcohol-related crashes. The best way to avoid being another statistic is to designate a driver before leaving for a night out.”
The average percentage of alcohol-related fatalities since 1982 is 46 percent.
Through October, there had been 51,125 accidents, which have caused 13,919 injuries and 546 deaths in Mississippi, an appalling figure.
Statistics show that during Christmas and New Year’s periods, two to three times more people die in alcohol-related crashes than during comparable periods the rest of the year. So as Sgt. Phil Esterhaus used to admonish his officers before sending them out to hit the streets in the classic TV cop show Hill Street Blues, “Let’s be careful out there.”
Mississippi Highway Patrol spokesmen said checkpoints and extra patrols are planned for the holiday weekend. That means all drivers can expected unexpected traffic stops and thorough questioning for all drivers.
The long-term toll of drinking-related holiday deaths is appalling – tens of thousands since the early 1980s. It would seem that the message could get through: Drinking and driving don’t mix in any quantity.
People who choose to ignore the facts should have the book thrown at them.
Almost every alcohol-related traffic fatality is preventable by abstinence, or at the least, designating a non-drinking driver.
Every person who causes injury or death in the name of their own indulgence should be fined, tried and jailed, no exceptions.