Police: Holiday vehicle deaths down this year

NEW ALBANY – One person died on the state’s highways over the long Memorial Day weekend, according to the Mississippi Highway Patrol.
Authorities credit vigorous enforcement of seat belt, child restraint and drunk-driving laws for the reduction in fatalities.
The death occurred in Covington County late Saturday morning when Andrew Ford, 67, apparently lost control of his Chevy pickup on state Highway 35, and the vehicle rolled over. He was not wearing a seat belt.
Last year, the Highway Patrol investigated seven traffic deaths in the same holiday period. Overall, Mississippi traffic fatalities have declined 25 percent since 2005, according to statistics published by the Highway Patrol.
“The Memorial Day holiday enforcement efforts consisted of saturated line patrols, road side safety checkpoints and additional troopers working their day off to supplement the regular shifts,” Hall said. “The overall goal was to decrease fatalities during this first holiday for the summer.”
Officers from the New Albany, Batesville and Starkville Highway Patrol offices, which serve Northeast Mississippi and nearby counties, made 66 DUI arrests and responded to 35 traffic accidents, nine with injuries, over the holiday weekend.
They issued citations for 309 seat belt and 66 child-restraint violations and 1,582 other citations. Failure to use a seat belt became a primary offense – meaning officers can stop violators without any other traffic violation – in 2006.
While more than 75 percent of Mississippians use seat belts when they are on the road, that figure leaves the state behind the national average of 83 percent usage.
Three groups nationwide at particular risk for car crashes – teens, young adults and nighttime drivers – are much less likely than the average driver to buckle up. Of people killed in nighttime crashes in 2008, for instance, some 64 percent were not wearing a seat belt.
MHP and local sheriff and police departments across the state will continue to emphasize their “Click It or Ticket” information and enforcement campaign through Sunday.

Contact Errol Castens at (662) 281-1069 or errol.castens@djournal.com.

Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal