By BRIAN HAWKINS
With the statewide kickoff of a holiday season crackdown on impaired driving this week, Office of Highway Safety officials are asking motorists to take a stand against impaired driving by taking one simple act when they get behind the wheel today — turning on their headlights.
Whenever a driver gets in a car, pickup or SUV, they are asked to drive with their headlights on as part of the “Lights on for Life” observance being held all day today, said Robert Hancock, central region law enforcement liaison for the Office of Highway Safety.
“Any time they get in the car, all day long, just turn on their headlights while driving to help take a stand against drunk or impaired driving,” said Hancock. “We need help in spreading the message for ‘Lights on for Life.’ We’re trying to save lives in Mississippi.”
Today’s “Lights on for Life” observance comes on the second day of the “Drunk Driving: Over the Limit, Under Arrest” campaign that began Thursday and continues through Jan. 3.
During the campaign period, law enforcement agencies statewide will focus increased efforts on making drunk driving and other alcohol-related offenses, as well as seat belt enforcement and traffic safety.
Among the local departments participating in the effort are the Starkville and Mississippi State University police departments and the Oktibbeha County Sheriff’s Department, as well as the Mississippi Highway Patrol.
The “Lights on for Life” observance is primarily designed to raise awareness about impaired driving, which Hancock says is one of Mississippi’s most often committed and deadliest crimes.
In 2009, statistics show that 295 of the 699 traffic fatalities that occurred across Mississippi involved at least one driver or motorcycle rider with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 percent — the level at which one is considered legally intoxicated — or higher.
In December 2009 alone, 753 people across the United States were killed in crashes involving drivers or motorcycle riders who were legally intoxicated, according to statistics from the National Highway Safety Administration.
Through Wednesday, Starkville Police Department officers had made 444 arrests for drunk driving offenses for 2010, though no traffic fatalities have occurred inside the city.
“The Mississippi Office of Highway Safety and its partners ask you to take a stand against impaired driving during this holiday season. Please help us get this message out by turning on your headlights,” Hancock said.