Police conduct DWI blitz through holidays

By Greg Rayburn / Editor / grayburn@sherwoodvoice.com
Friday, December 18, 2009 10:02 AM CST
‘Tis the season to be jolly, but not tipsy.

The Sherwood Police Department has announced its participation in the impaired driving enforcement crackdown through the rest of holiday season.

“Drunk Driving: Over the Limit, Under Arrest” is the department’s intensified enforcement effort against drunk drivers and underscores the severity of the drunk driving problem both locally and across the nation, according to police Chief Kel Nicholson.

According to the Arkansas State Police’s Highway Traffic Safety office, there were 34 alcohol-related crashes in December 2007 resulting in 30 injuries and one fatality.

“We will be out in force making sure drunk drivers are off the road,” said Nicholson. “No amount of good cheer will be able to save you from the consequence of drunk driving. If we catch you, we will arrest you. No exceptions. No excuses.” ADVERTISEMENT
The department recommends designating a sober driver and not letting friends drive drunk as just two of several simple steps to avoid a tragic crash or an arrest for impaired driving.

“Drunk driving is simply not worth the risk,” said Police Lt. Cheryl Williams, the department’s public information officer. “It is deadly serious and against the law. Violators will be spending their money on bail, court, lawyers, and towing fees instead of buying holiday presents for loved ones. That’s not a great way to end the year.”

Drunk driving enforcement has been an continuing program implemented by the city police department.

In the fall, the department procured a $45,500 grant from the Arkansas Highway Safety Office for the Selective Traffic Enforcement Program, also known as STEP.
Williams said the grant provides overtime compensation for city police officers to enforcement certain violations including driving while intoxicated, driving under the influence (for minors), speeding, seat belt, and child restraint laws. The grant also provides limited funding to purchase child safety seats.

In Arkansas in 2008, there were 171 alcohol-related fatalities reported which marks a 10-percent decrease from the previous year, according to Williams.

“An additional area of concern is occupant protection where in 2008 there were 265 unrestrained passenger vehicle occupant fatalities,” Williams said.

The safety belt rate in Arkansas for 2008 was 70.4 percent while the national use rate stood at 83 percent. However, Arkansas’ safety belt use rate increased to 74.4 percent in 2009, Williams said.
“Also of concern are speed-related fatalities where in 2008, 63 people died as a result of speed-related crashes,” Williams said.

In Arkansas in 2007 there were 218 alcohol-related fatalities reported. This is a decrease of 8 percent from the previous year. An additional area of concern is occupant protection where in 2007, 65 percent of the recorded vehicle occupant fatalities were unrestrained. The safety belt rate in Arkansas for 2007 was 69.9 percent, while the National use rate stood at 82 percent. Arkansas’s safety belt/child restraint use rate for children under 15 years old was 75.5 percent in 2007. However, Arkansas’s safety belt use rate increased to 70 percent and the child restraint use increased to 78.7 percent in 2008.

Strict enforcement of the state’s traffic laws, through STEP, has proven effective in reducing traffic crashes and fatalities, Williams said.

The grant concludes Sept. 20, 2010.