Drivers beware: Patrol officers start Drive Sober campaign

Patrol officers across South Mississippi have joined a statewide effort to get impaired drivers off highways and city streets in a safety campaign that runs through midnight Labor Day.

The kickoff of the Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign was announced Thursday during a three-day conference at the Golden Nugget Hotel & Casino.

“Local drivers should expect to see more patrol vehicles, sobriety checkpoints and increased messaging about the dangers of drunk driving,” Mississippi Department of Public Safety Commissioner Albert Santa Cruz said.

Statistics show nearly 24 percent of fatal crashes in Mississippi in 2015 were alcohol-related, according to the Mississippi Office of Highway Safety. And during the Labor Day period, crashes claimed 38 lives around the state and injured 1,291 people.

Nationwide, 40 percent of fatal crashes over the 2014 Labor Day period involved drunken drivers, according to the the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It’s the highest percentage in more than five years.

“And we’re not talking about a little bit of alcohol, either,” Highway Safety Office Director Penny Corn said. “More than 28 percent of the fatalities involved drivers with blood-alcohol content levels of 0.15 or higher — almost twice the illegal limit.”

Nearly 7 percent of impaired drivers in fatal crashes last year had DUI convictions, she said.

“Drunk driving is selfish and dangerous. We want to increase awareness with this campaign, but also see lasting results of decreased drunk driving.”

More than 10,000 people a year die in alcohol-related crashes nationwide, Highway Safety Office Division Director Twyla Jennings said.

“You may think you aren’t drunk, but law enforcement will know you are. Skills in detecting and identifying drunk drivers have never been better. They will spot you and arrest you.”

The Drive Sober campaign is sponsored by NHTSA. In Mississippi, it’s a joint effort of law enforcement officers and the Office of Highway Safety.

NHTSA has developed a free SaferRide mobile app that allows a driver to call pre-selected contacts or a taxi, and identifies your location so you can be picked up.