Louisiana State Police: Not all traditions should be continued this holiday season (updated with comments from St. Mary Parish Sheriff Mark Hebert)
By JEAN L. KAESS
MORGAN CITY — “Don’t let one drink be the cause of ruining not just your life but maybe someone else’s. Enjoy the social season, but keep it safe,” Sheriff Mark Hebert said.
Planning ahead and designating a driver is the key to doing just that, Hebert said.
In December, the St. Mary Parish Sheriff’s Office has made six driving while intoxicated arrests so far. Two of those were not for alcohol-impaired drivers. It’s not just alcohol, but other drugs that can impair a driver, he noted.
“We always diligently are aware of the possibility of impaired drivers out there. It’s more prevalent with the socials. We’ve always stressed on the dedicated driver. Always have someone to drive. A lot of the alcohol-related crashes seem to arise during this time of year. All law enforcement is always trying to deter any individual from drinking and driving, not just during the holidays,” the sheriff said.
Louisiana State Police would like to see one holiday tradition come to an end, stated a news release.
The holiday season is also traditionally one of the deadliest times on our roadways due to an increase in poor decisions both while behind the wheel and as pedestrians, the news release stated.
Unfortunately, thus far during the month of December, troopers around the state have investigated 27 fatal crashes resulting in 30 lives being lost, the news release stated.
Throughout the holiday season, State Police is joining forces with other state and local law enforcement agencies to conduct proactive enforcement of common safety violations leading to motor vehicle crashes. In addition to increased DWI enforcement, troopers will be focusing on motorists not wearing seat belts, unrestrained children in vehicles and any dangerous driving behaviors such as speeding, following too close and driving while distracted.
“The removal of impaired drivers from our roadways will always remain a constant priority for troopers and our law enforcement partners,” said Col. Mike Edmonson, Louisiana State Police superintendent.
“However, it is the individual responsibility of every citizen, both as drivers and pedestrians, to bring this deadly holiday tradition to an end. While the immediate effects of these crashes are felt by the victims’ families, the consequences are often far reaching, affecting friends, coworkers, first responders and the entire community,” Edmonson said.
To combat this tragic trend, troopers and law enforcement officials will be utilizing overtime grants to increase patrols and conduct specialized enforcement activities such as numerous DWI checkpoints planned across the state. In addition, many of the scheduled checkpoints will be conducted under the “No Refusal” campaign.
According to research conducted by the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission, 251 alcohol related fatalities were reported across Louisiana in 2011, with nearly 7,000 suspected impaired drivers refusing to submit to a breath alcohol test.
“No family should have to endure the grief of losing a loved one during the holidays,” Edmonson said. “While troopers statewide will be on constant patrol, the public and law enforcement must work together to prevent the needless loss of life on our roadways. We wish citizens across our state a happy holiday season and hope to see everyone making good, responsible decisions.”
To report impaired drivers or unsafe roadway conditions, dial *LSP (*577) from a cellular phone.