Officials urge New Year’s safety

Law enforcement officials know that people look forward to the holiday season but they also know that this time of year can bring heartache and tragedy just from one bad decision.

Typically, New Year’s Eve is a time when many people are celebrating, and many of those people attend celebrations and indulge in alcoholic beverages, which can be a problem if those same people choose to then get behind the wheel of a vehicle.

According to a recently released report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there was a total of 257 alcohol-related traffic fatalities reported in the state of Alabama in 2012, which represents 30 percent of all traffic fatalities recorded in the state last year.

Last year across the nation, deaths in crashes involving drunk drivers increased 4.6 percent, resulting in 10,322 lives lost compared to 9,865 in 2011.

The majority of those crashes involved drivers with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .15 or higher – nearly double the legal limit.

During last year’s holiday season alone, 830 lives were lost nationwide in drunk driving crashes.

Local law enforcement officials agreed that the number of alcohol-related traffic accidents and fatalities always seems to increase around the holiday season and especially New Year’s Eve.

To crack down on the holiday drunk driving dilemma, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx, NHTSA administrator David Strickland, and local law enforcement agencies joined together earlier this month to kick off the “Drive sober or get pulled over” campaign that urges residents to choose wisely when it comes to drinking and driving this holiday season.

“Everyone knows that they shouldn’t drink and drive but there are so many people every year that don’t take that seriously and think they are still capable of operating a vehicle,” Russellville Police Chief Chris Hargett said.

“Even if you’ve had just one drink, you should let someone else do the driving. It’s not worth the risk to get behind the wheel and put your life, the lives of those in your vehicle or the lives of other innocent people in danger.”

Local law enforcement officials recommended these simple tips to keep residents safe over the holidays:

• Plan a safe way home before the festivities begin;

• Before drinking, designate a sober driver and leave your car keys at home;

• If you’re impaired, use a taxi, call a sober friend or family member, or use public transportation;

• If you happen to see a drunk driver on the road, don’t hesitate to contact your local law enforcement; and

• If you know someone who is about to drive or ride while impaired, take that person’s keys and help him or her make other arrangements to get home safely.

Hargett and other law enforcement officials in the county said patrol units will be out over the holiday to make sure residents aren’t impaired behind the wheel.

“I just want to encourage everyone to make wise decisions and do the right thing when it comes to drinking and driving,” Hargett said.

“We want everyone to have a good time, but we don’t want that good time to come at the expense of someone’s life. Nothing is worth jeopardizing your future or someone else’s.”

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