The holiday season is in full swing, and so is a DWI/DUI enforcement mobilization to help ensure that everyone celebrates safely.
The El Dorado Police Department is joining law enforcement agencies around the nation in warning drivers to “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over.”
Increased patrols began on Dec. 13 and will continue until New Year’s Day.
EPD officers advised citizens that the police department is raising its visibility on city streets and aggressively targeting impaired drivers during that time — with a zero tolerance stance.
The year-end campaign, which is employing the same slogan as the end-of-summer campaign, was designed by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Safety Administration to get drunk drivers off the street and to spread the word about the dangers of impaired driving.
With the travel period heightened and holiday festivities aplenty, the potential increases for drunk drivers to get behind the wheel, law enforcement officers said.
Consequently, arresting impaired drivers will be a top priority, said Lt. Kenny Hickman of the EPD.
“Officers at the El Dorado Police Department urge our citizens and guests to help us in making this season one that is not only festive, but safe as well,” Hickman said.
According to the most recent statistics released by the NHTSA, 37,461 people were killed in traffic crashes in 2016.
Of those, 28 percent died in DWI crashes, in which the driver’s blood alcohol content exceeded the legal limit of .08.
Hickman shared some safety tips that were provided by the NHTSA:
• If you plan on drinking, do not drive. Plan ahead and designate a sober driver before you get in the vehicle. Even one drink can impair your judgment and increase the risk of getting arrested for drunk driving, or works, risk injury or death to someone in a crash.
• If you have been drinking, use (a paid transportation service) or call a sober friend or family member to get to your destination safely.
• Promptly report drunk drivers to law enforcement.
• Always wear your seat belt or use protective equipment while on a motorcycle. These items are the best defense against an impaired driver.
In Arkansas, possible penalties for DWIs and DUIs are:
• First offense, driver’s license suspended for six months.
• Second offense within five years, license suspended for two years.
• Third offense within five years, license suspended for 30 months.
• Fourth offense within five, permanent license revocation.
Offenders may also be required to pay a fine, complete court-ordered community service and undergo a court-approved drug and alcohol education/treatment program.
Unanticipated expenses — including attorney’s fees, court costs, vehicle towing, repairs and lost wages for time off work — are also a consideration, with the ultimate cost being the potential for injuries or death to drunk drivers and others on the road.
Hickman said the EPD wants to make certain that the holiday season is festive and safe in El Dorado.
“Planning ahead and employing a few simple, but wise precautions will help ensure both,” he said.
Tia Lyons can be reached at 870-862-6611 or tlyons@ eldoradonews.com.