As motorists take to the roads this Labor Day holiday, the Arkansas Highway Safety Office urges everyone to buckle up and drive sober. The Arkansas State Police, other state, city and county law enforcement agencies have increased DWI and seat belt patrols beginning Friday, Aug. 16. The additional patrols will continue through Labor Day, Monday Sept. 2.
The statewide crackdown effort against impaired drivers and seat belt law violators underscores the disproportionate number of traffic deaths involving alcohol and unbelted motorists.
"We want everyone to have a safe holiday, but it requires important steps on the part of motorists – clicking that seat belt and driving sober," said Colonel Stan Witt, Arkansas State Police Director and Governor’s Highway Safety Representative. "Safety is a primary concern, not just for drivers, but also passengers and others on the road."
Law enforcement officers across Arkansas recommend that anyone who plans to consume alcohol make alternative transportation plans, such as designating a sober driver or calling a friend.
Col. Witt also stressed the importance of wearing a seat belt as your best defense against a drunk driver.
"Our Troopers are prepared to arrest drunk drivers and ticket those not wearing a seat belt," he said.
There were 549 traffic fatalities on Arkansas roadways during 2011. Twenty-eight percent (or 156) of those fatalities involved a driver or motorcycle operator with a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of .08 or higher.
An additional area of concern is motor vehicle occupant protection. During 2011 there were 220 unrestrained passenger vehicle occupant fatalities.
"Seat belts save thousands of lives every year, but far too many motorists still are not buckling up," Col. Witt said. "With a seat belt use rate of almost 72 percent, Arkansas lags far behind the national average of 86 percent."
Law enforcement officers will be working overtime during the holiday period which typically experiences an increase in motor vehicle traffic. It will be the goal of the officers to save lives by exercising strict enforcement of the Arkansas seat belt and impaired driving laws.
The law enforcement crackdown is funded by federal traffic safety funds through the Arkansas State Police Highway Safety Office and it runs concurrently with a media campaign that will remind motorists, "Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over" and "Click It or Ticket."
For more information, log onto TrafficSafetyMarketing.gov or call the Arkansas Highway Safety Office at 1-501-618-8136.