While the December holidays mean a time of family and fellowship for most, this season can also bring tragedy for many who travel.
Our state and federal crash data show the period between Thanksgiving and New Year's is one of the most dangerous times to be a traveler. The Christmas driving period can be a killer on our highways at home and across the country. And drunk driving is the reason for this season of havoc on our highways.
The sad fact is one out of three fatal highway crashes each year is caused by impaired drivers, making drunk driving one of America's deadliest crimes. Equally disturbing is the revelation that nearly a quarter of our young males admit to riding with someone who shouldn't have been behind the wheel.
In December 2009 alone, 753 people were killed nationwide in crashes involving drivers with illegal blood alcohol concentrations of .08 or higher. How can these needless deaths be deterred? This year marks the fifth consecutive Christmas season that Georgia has mobilized literally thousands of traffic enforcement officers around the state under the national "Over the Limit, Under Arrest" DUI enforcement campaign.
Why focus enforcement around Christmas? Because right here in Georgia, 25 people died just during the December 2008 holiday travel period, and overall Georgia experienced 7,814 alcohol-related crashes that year. That's why the Governor's Office of Highway Safety (GOHS) is joining hundreds of highway safety partners for this statewide Operation Zero Tolerance holiday enforcement campaign.
During this high-visibility mobilization of sobriety checkpoints and increased patrols, drivers detected over the limit will be placed under arrest. Our message is simple and clear: No matter who you are, what you drive or where you drive it, when you're caught driving impaired, you will be arrested. No warnings. No excuses. No exceptions.
Georgia's statewide Operation Zero Tolerance holiday enforcement crackdown begins Friday and runs through Jan 2. We're even telling motorists when to watch out for flashing lights in their rearview mirrors, because this campaign is about making sure Georgians survive the holidays. The necessity for writing more tickets is not about making more revenue; it's about getting more drivers' attention and saving more lives.
When we remember what we're grateful for this holiday season, we always include our dedicated enforcement partners whose holiday duties protect innocent motorists on the roads for family visits. High visibility enforcement measures play a critical role in reducing the drunken driving crashes that kill and injure our fellow Georgians.
At GOHS, we hope this year's Christmas/New Year's DUI enforcement campaigns will help keep highway fatalities from increasing during the final month of 2010. So remember, whether you've had way too many or just one too many, it's not worth the risk. Get a designated driver. Don't let 2010 end in an arrest or even worse for you.
For more about Operation Zero Tolerance, visit the GOHS Web site at www.gahighwaysafety.org.
(Bob Dallas is director of the Georgia Governor's Office of Highway Safety.)
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.