OUR OPINION: New Year’s holiday time requires extra cautions

The Mississippi Highway Patrol reported four traffic fatalities over its four-day traffic enforcement period for Christmas, and the deaths happened in MHP’s Greenwood, New Albany and Meridian districts.

The Christmas enforcement period began at 6 p.m. Monday and ended at midnight Thursday, but it will be followed by a similar New Year’s weekend/holiday enforcement period this week.

It’s reported that Highway Patrol officers investigated a total of 135 collisions that injured 27 people. Five wrecks were alcohol-related. The only fully acceptable number is zero.

Troopers made a total of 33 DUI arrests statewide, and a similar if not higher number can be expected over the New Year’s holiday because of the association of alcohol and that holiday’s revelry.

Patrol officers statewide reported 3,577 arrests and citations, including 2,242 hazardous violations.

MHP will continue its “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” campaign through midnight Wednesday, a crackdown that has been supported by several groups who advocate sober driving for all drivers.

The public of course should expect roving patrols, safety checkpoints and strict enforcement of all safe-driving laws, including speed limits, throughout the New Year’s holiday period.

The checkpoints also can be expected by city police forces and in some cases sheriff’s officers. The sure way to make those stops routine is sober driving, and alcohol-free driving is best. A designated sober driver can keep people out of trouble and safe.

Impaired drivers are dangerous any time, but with New Year’s parties and other celebrations, the chances of impaired driving could increase.

Law enforcement wants everyone to have a good time but also is looking to ensure that travelers and their families practice safety when traveling to and from parties.

These suggestions are offered:

• People who plan to drink should designate a nondrinking driver and give that person the keys to the vehicle.

• Never ride with a driver who has been drinking.

• Take a list of phone numbers for cabs and friends to call for a sober ride home.

• If possible, plan to spend the night at the event.

• When throwing a party, provide nonalcoholic alternatives, and never let guests drive drunk.

• Report impaired drivers to a local law enforcement.

• Always buckle up and properly secure children.

Be safe, and keep others safe at the same time.