THP gears up for Christmas, New Years holiday enforcement

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 (NHTSA), in December 2007, 992 people were killed in crashes that involved a drunk driver with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or higher.

“Impaired driving is a year-round problem, but it becomes especially serious during the holidays as more people are on the road traveling to and from parties and special gatherings,” said Commissioner Dave Mitchell. “Whether you’ve had way too many or just one too many, it’s not worth the risk of killing yourself or someone else.  Remember buzzed driving is drunk driving.”

During the 2007 Christmas holiday, seven people were killed in traffic crashes on Tennessee roadways. This represents one death every 14 hours and 34 minutes. Alcohol was involved in nearly 30 percent of those crashes and four of the seven people killed were not wearing safety restraints.

The 2008 Christmas holiday period begins Wednesday, Dec. 24, at 6 p.m., and runs through Sunday, Dec. 28, at 11:59 p.m. THP is also currently participating in a national campaign, “Drunk Driving. Over the Limit. Under Arrest.”  This special enforcement effort runs through the end of the year. State Troopers, including administrative personnel, will be working with law enforcement officers from hundreds of agencies across the country to get impaired drivers off the road.

“No amount of good cheer will save you from the consequences of driving under the influence,” said Col. Mike Walker. “We will be out in force looking for impaired drivers, and if we catch you, we will arrest you. You will go to jail. No exceptions. No excuses.”

Seventeen people lost their lives in alcohol-related crashes on Tennessee roadways in December 2007. Overall traffic fatalities declined by 6 percent last year, and that trend is continuing in 2008. As of Dec. 21, 2008, there have been 212 fewer fatal crashes than the same time period in 2007.

“The fact that fatal crashes have dropped again this year is good news,” Walker added. “However, nearly a thousand people were killed on Tennessee roadways this year, and that means a thousand families didn’t have loved ones here for the holidays.” 

Last year, 15 people were killed during the New Year’s holiday period. Three of those fatalities occurred in alcohol-related crashes. The official New Year’s holiday period will begin 6 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 31, 2008, and will end 11:59 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 4, 2009.

Designating a sober driver and not letting friends drive drunk are just two of several simple steps to help avoid a tragic crash or an arrest for impaired driving. Other important tips include:

• 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;• Promptly report drunk drivers you see on the roadways to the Tennessee Highway Patrol by dialing  *THP;• Wearing your seat belt or using protective gear 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.