LITTLE ROCK — Starting Friday, law enforcement agencies in Arkansas and across the country will intensify efforts to get dangerous drivers off the roads as part of the "Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over" campaign.
"We’ll be doing saturation patrols, we’ll be doing (sobriety) checkpoints with other agencies and departments," Arkansas State Police Cpl. Chuck Lewis said Wednesday. "It’ll be a joint effort for all the departments to curtail drunk driving, reckless driving, road rage — anything that would endanger other drivers during this mobilization period."
More than 10,000 law enforcement agencies will participate in the campaign, which will run through Labor Day, Sept. 1, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said in a news release Wednesday.
"Drunken driving is a deadly and preventable crime that destroys lives and costs the nation billions of dollars every year," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. "With the help of law enforcement around the country, we are going to continue doing all that we can to stop drunk driving and the needless tragedies that result from this reckless behavior."
According to a NHTSA report released in May, crashes caused by intoxicated drivers cost the nation $47 billion in direct economic impacts in 2010, an average cost of $152 for every person in the U.S. When the economic impact from loss of life and decreased quality of life was included, the cost rose to $195 billion.
NHTSA said more than 10,000 people die each year in drunk driving crashes, 35 percent of them passengers, occupants of other vehicles or non-occupants.
"The costs of drunk driving — in lives and economic harm — are far too high for anyone to ever get behind the wheel after they’ve been drinking," said NHTSA Acting Administrator David Friedman. "Do not make one of the last wonderful days of summer the final tragic day of your life — or someone else’s — by driving after drinking."
According to NHTSA statistics, 10,322 people died nationwide in alcohol-related crashes in 2012, accounting for 31 percent of all traffic fatalities that year.
Over the Labor Day weekend in 2012, nearly 40 percent of all traffic fatalities involved impaired driving.
"These grim facts should speak for themselves, but the message hasn’t gotten everyone’s attention yet," said Arkansas State Police Director Col. Stan Witt. "That’s why the Arkansas State Police and local law enforcement will be joining the national Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign and will arrest anyone caught driving drunk. There will be no tolerance, no excuses."
In 2012 there were 552 traffic fatalities on Arkansas roadways, the Arkansas State Police said. Twenty-six percent, or 143 of the fatalities, involved a driver or motorcycle operator with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 or higher.
Anyone who intends to consume alcohol and be on the road should plan ahead and designate a sober driver or call a friend or a taxi, the agency said.