NASHVILLE — Drunk driving is one of America’s deadliest crimes. In 2008, 327 people died in highway crashes in Tennessee involving a driver or motorcycle rider with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or higher. That’s an 11 percent decline from the 377 alcohol-related deaths in 2007.
As part of National Drunk & Drugged Driving Prevention Month, the Tennessee Highway Patrol will be stepping up its enforcement crackdown to find and remove impaired drivers from Tennessee roadways. Troopers will be conducting more than 100 sobriety and driver license checkpoints now through the New Year’s holiday to get drunk drivers off the road.
“The purpose of this effort is to save lives,” said Governor Phil Bredesen. “I urge all Tennesseans and travelers passing through our state to obey the laws designed to keep them safe, not only through the holidays but whenever they get behind the wheel.”
“Ensuring the safety and general welfare of the public isn’t just a cliché but a mission the Department of Safety takes seriously,” stated Department of Safety Commissioner Dave Mitchell. “That is why the THP will be joining with hundreds of law enforcement agencies across the state from December 16 to January 3, 2010, to take part in this crackdown on impaired driving called Drunk Driving. Over the Limit. Under Arrest.”
The holiday season is one of the deadliest and most dangerous times of the year due to an increase in impaired driving. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in December 2008, 888 people were killed nationwide in crashes that involved a drunk driver with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or higher. That was down from 992 people killed in similar impaired driving crashes in 2007.
In Tennessee, in December 2008, eight people were killed in crashes that involved a drunk driver with a known BAC of .08 or higher compared to 12 people in December 2007.
“The holidays are about gathering together with friends and family to celebrate the joys of the season, but no amount of good cheer will save people from the consequences of impaired driving,” said Tennessee Highway Patrol Colonel Mike Walker. “Impaired driving is against the law and Troopers will be out in force working to save lives by making sure drunk and drugged drivers are kept off the road. If we catch you, we will arrest you. No exceptions. No excuses.”
The 2009 Christmas holiday period begins Thursday, December 24th, at 6:00 p.m., and runs through Sunday, December 27, at 11:59 p.m. During the 2008 Christmas holiday period, nine people were killed in traffic crashes on Tennessee roadways. This represents one death every 11 hours and 20 minutes. Alcohol was involved in nearly 29 percent of those crashes and four of the seven motorists killed were not wearing safety restraints.
The 2009 New Year’s holiday period begins at 6:00 p.m., Thursday, December 31, 2009, and will end 11:59 p.m. Sunday, January 3, 2010. Last year, 2008-09, 12 people were killed during the New Year’s holiday period and 42 percent of the fatalities occurred in alcohol-related crashes.
There is an impression that drunk driving is predominantly a male issue, but statistics show that’s not the case. During the past decade, research shows the number of drunk female drivers involved in fatal crashes has increased in 10 states including Tennessee. Between 2004 and 2008 the number of impaired driver crashes in Tennessee fell from 13,242 to 12,033, a decline of nearly nine percent. However, during that same period, the number of impaired female drivers in crashes increased by 4.7 percent while the number of impaired male drivers involved in crashes decreased more than 13 percent.
If you are planning to drink alcohol with family and friends, there are several simple steps to help avoid a tragic crash or trauma and the financial costs associated with an impaired driving arrest.
· Plan ahead: Whenever you plan on consuming alcohol, designate your sober driver before going out and give that person your keys.
· If you’re impaired, call a taxi, use mass transit or call a sober friend or family member to get you home safely.
· Wearing your seat belt or using protective gear when on your motorcycle is your best defense against an impaired driver.
· And remember, “Friends Don’t Let Friends Drive Drunk”. If you know someone who is about to drive or ride while impaired, take their keys and help them make other arrangements to get to where they are going safely.
· Violators often face jail time, the loss of their driver’s license, higher insurance rates, and dozens of other unanticipated expenses from attorney fees, other fines and court costs, towing and repairs, lost time at work, etc.
In 2008, there were 1,043 traffic fatalities in Tennessee, down nearly 14 percent from 1,211 fatalities in 2007. As of December 15, preliminary statistics indicate that 903 people have died on Tennessee roadways, a decline of 96 deaths (10 percent) compared to 999 fatalities at this same time a year ago.
Statistics for the 2008 Christmas period and the 2008-2009 New Year’s Holiday are attached. Below is a list of the sobriety and driver license checkpoints scheduled for the upcoming holidays.
For more information, please visit www.StopImpairedDriving.org .