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Don't Be a Statistic This Holiday SeasonPosted Thursday, December 27, 2012, at 8:38 AM
The holidays are supposed to be a time of joy and celebration, but for too many families, they are filled with tragedy. One of the most dangerous times of the year on our roadways is between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day.
With increased promotional campaigns over the past two decades, most everyone is aware of the dangers of drinking and driving. Yet, last year 190 people on Arkansas roadways lost their lives in an alcohol related crash. That accounted for 34 percent of all traffic fatalities in our state.
Every session, legislators explore ways to reduce the amount of drunk drivers on our roads. In 2009, we required vehicle interlock devices to be installed or face a license suspension for first time offenders. Another law passed that year, requires anyone convicted of drinking while intoxicated to attend a victim's impact panel, where they hear directly from someone who has either lost a loved one or been affected directly by a drunk driver.
Unfortunately, the toughest penalties on the books do not deter some people during the holiday season. So as you celebrate the holidays this year, please remember to put safety before the party by assigning a sober designated driver to get everyone home. Remind others to do the same. Mothers Against Drunk Drivers offers several tips to throwing a safe party. It includes remembering that beer and wine are just as intoxicating as hard liquor. The group also reminds party goers that mixers won't help dilute alcohol. Carbonated mixers like club soda or tonic water cause alcohol to be absorbed into a person's system more quickly. Fruit juice and other sweet mixers mask the taste of alcohol and may cause people to drink more.
Law enforcement agencies across the state are preparing to provide additional protection for travelers along Arkansas roadways this holiday season.
The Arkansas State Police Highway Safety Office has joined with Mothers Against Drunk Driving in announcing Arkansas's participation in the national law enforcement and public media campaign, "Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over." Police will be conducing saturation patrols and sobriety checkpoints to identify and arrest impaired drivers.
Please don't take a chance this holiday season. We hope each and every one of you have a safe and Happy New Year.
Mike Patterson (D) of Piggott serves in the Arkansas State House of Representatives.
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