EDITORIAL: Dangerous holiday

By NEMS Daily Journal

The holiday all law enforcement officers dread – New Year’s Eve, day and weekend – begins today and ends Monday, and motorists can expect tightened enforcement of all driving laws, especially seat belts, speed and DUI.
The holidays since Thanksgiving and including Christmas have seen multiple traffic fatalities, including several in Northeast Mississippi.
A coordinated campaign, part of a nationwide efforts among state departments of public safety, will be at maximum alert everywhere this weekend.
The “Over the Limit, Under Arrest” campaign started Dec. 16 for the Christmas-New Year’s segment, and continues through Sunday.
Random checkpoints are likely across the region on highways, streets and country roads.
Mississippi Highway Patrol Troopers, police and sheriffs’ officers have already been out in force during the holidays.
MHP officers made 81 arrests for drunk driving during the Christmas weekend reporting period that began at 6 p.m. Dec. 23 and ended at midnight Dec. 26. The patrolmen issues 1,921 for traffic violations and 934 citations for non-hazardous traffic behavior. Troopers covered 46 traffic accidents statewide over the extended Christmas weekend, and 48 involved an injury.
In 2008, Mississippi had 768 traffic fatalities statewide, with 38 percent of those being alcohol-related. In 2009, there were 699 traffic fatalities statewide, with 35 percent alcohol-related. Current projections show that the number of fatality crashes for 2010 will also see a noticeable. Last December, 753 Americans were killed in crashes involving a driver or motorcycle operator with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or higher, federal sources report.
Mississippi is focusing on the “Drunk Driving. Over the Limit. Under Arrest.” campaign from Dec. 16 – Jan. 3, with special attention to preventing crashes resulting in death, injury and economic loss in the state. Law enforcement agencies are conducting call-back details, safety checkpoints and saturation patrols. The Mississippi Governor’s Office of Highway Safety is using a $300,000 budget to promote it. Tennessee, Alabama, Arkansas and Louisiana, frequent destinations for Mississippians, all have smaller crackdown efforts, so that effectively there’s no escape from the higher scrutiny.
All the participating states want public help in the crackdown, so if you have suspicions of drunk or reckless driving, call 911 to report specifics of what you see. The point of the heightened enforcement is safety. More cars use Mississippi’s highways, streets and county roads every year, and any illegal/irresponsible and dangerous behavior becomes a greater hazard to all.
New Year’s is a festive holiday. No one should complain about efforts in making it safe.