To protect Sharp and Fulton county families during the recent holiday period, Health Resources of Arkansas supported state and local efforts to protect citizens from impaired drivers.
As part of the "You Drink & Drive. You Lose." national crackdown, HRA worked with partners to protect everyone from impaired drivers during this busy time of the year. From Dec. 19, 2003, to Jan. 4, 2004, local and state officials were out in full force conducting sobriety checkpoints and saturation patrols throughout Sharp and Fulton counties to arrest and prosecute these criminals to the fullest extent of the law.
Even though the holidays are over, law enforcement agencies will continue to crack down on drunk driving. "There will be no warnings," said Bonita Montgomery, Drug and Alcohol Education Program Coordinator in Fulton County. "Our message is simple -- You Drink & Drive. You Lose. Violators can lose their licenses, time from their jobs and lose money in high fines and court costs as well as possibly face imprisonment for repeat offenses, assault and vehicular manslaughter. Refuse a blood alcohol concentration test and you can lose your license on the spot and have your car impounded."
After a decade of gradual success, fatalities in alcohol-related crashes have not significantly improved nationally in the last three years. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that alcohol-related fatalities rose slightly from 17,400 in 2001 to 17,419 in 2002. An estimated 258,000 persons were injured in crashes where police reported that alcohol was present -- an average of one person injured approximately every 2 minutes.
"If you find it hard to figure out if you've had too many drinks to drive -- don't risk it. Chances are if you're feeling 'buzzed' you are too impaired to drive safely," said Montgomery.
Nine out of 10 Americans who participate in social events where alcohol is served think that people should use designated drivers. Health Resources of Arkansas suggests that party hosts include alcohol-free beverages and protein rich foods, along with reminding guests to plan ahead and remember the following advice:
* Don't risk it -- if you plan to drive, don't drink.
* Choose a sober designated driver before partying.
* Take mass transit, a taxicab or ask a friend to drive you home.
* Spend the night where the activity is being held.
* Report impaired drivers to law enforcement.
* Always wear your safety belt, your best defense against an impaired driver.
Studies from the NHTSA show that the majority of Americans consider drunk driving one of the nation's most important social issues, ahead of health care, poverty/hunger, racism and education. Nearly 97 percent of Americans view drunk driving as a major threat to the community. As a result, the majority of Americans support increased use of enforcement efforts like saturation patrols and sobriety checkpoints to protect innocent victims. Furthermore, two-thirds of Americans also strongly endorse the use of stricter and more severe penalties against drunk drivers.
The "You Drink & Drive. You Lose." national mobilization, launched in December 1999, is a comprehensive impaired driving prevention effort focused on highly visible criminal justice-related efforts to deter impaired driving and designed for use by states and communities to save lives. Thanks to the tremendous efforts of thousands of devoted public and private partners, more than 150 million Americans have been reached through newspapers, the Internet, and radio and television.
For more information about the campaign, visit NHTSA's Web site at www.nhtsa.dot.gov.