District Attorney endorses crackdown on driving under the influence | Crime
Driving under the influence continues to exact an epidemic toll on our nation and state. Every year nearly one third of all motor vehicle traffic deaths involve impaired drivers or motorcycle operators.
In 2011, 9,878 people (31 percent of all fatalities) were killed on America’s roads in impaired driving crashes—about one person every 53 minutes.
Holidays are particularly dangerous and the upcoming Labor Day celebration in Tennessee is no exception.
That’s why the local police departments and sheriff’s office are joining nearly 10,000 law enforcement agencies nationwide to crack down on anyone caught driving under the influence from mid-August through the Labor Day holiday.
Research shows that high-visibility enforcement reduce impaired driving fatalities by as much as 20 percent, and a well-implemented enforcement campaign that is intense, frequent, highly visible, and targeted can make a big difference to our state.
Law enforcement efforts, part of the national “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” campaign, will include sobriety checkpoints, saturation patrols and no refusal enforcement. If you are driving under the influence, you will be caught and face serious consequences. The minimum penalty in Tennessee includes 48 hours in jail, a one-year license suspension and a $350 fine. You can also face severe financial consequences such as rising insurance rates, attorney fees, court costs, lost time at work, and potential job loss and personal and professional embarrassment. You may have to pick up garbage on the side of the road as your neighbors drive by.
Statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) underscore the dangers of impaired driving dramatically. During the 2011 Labor Day holiday period, 138 people (amounting to 36% of Labor Day motor vehicle traffic fatalities that year) were killed nationwide in crashes involving drivers or motorcycle riders with blood alcohol concentrations of .08 or higher. Last year one person in Tennessee died in an alcohol related crash. 2 persons were killed in crashes in which a driver was impaired by drugs. It is illegal in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico to drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
In Tennessee last year, 15 people were killed and 558 injured in traffic crashes over the Labor Day weekend. 81 persons were injured in impaired driving crashes. These numbers are significant. NHTSA notes that Labor Day impaired driving fatalities across the nation over a 5-year period (from 2007 to 2011) involved impaired driving 39% of the time.
But such numbers tell only part of the story. Young people, with their whole lives ahead of them, are dying in impaired driving crashes more than any other age group. Young drivers 18 to 34 years old accounted for 44 percent of the Labor Day impaired driving fatalities in America in 2011. In Tennessee last year three persons under the age of 22 died before their time.
By participating in this national enforcement crackdown, we hope law enforcement can help reduce the number of impaired driving fatalities and injuries in our community and make the roads safer for everyone. We hope all people will get home safely and that no person will spend their holiday planning a funeral after an unexpected tragedy. Any injury or loss of life is unacceptable if caused by alcohol or drugs, so please remember this important advice from District Attorney, Mike Dunavant: “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” this holiday weekend.