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Now more than ever, be safe on the roads
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Dear Editor,

We are now halfway through December, which means the holidays should be a time to celebrate. But in Georgia and all across the country, the holidays bring with them a deadly reputation on the road. The crash data calendar shows the travel period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s is one of the most dangerous times on our highways.  

Across the country, 992 people died in traffic crashes during last December alone.

Right here in Georgia, 12 people died during the 2007 Christmas travel period. The sad fact is one-out-of-three of our fatal highway crashes each year is caused by impaired drivers. Every one of those tragic, alcohol-related deaths could have been prevented. Instead, the closer we come to the New Year’s travel period, the deadlier the calendar becomes.

And the human toll is only half the picture. Drunk driving is a serious and costly crime and the crashes cost this country billions of dollars each year. In other words, it’s just not worth the risk.  Impaired drivers risk killing themselves and others and the trauma and financial costs of a DUI crash or a drunk driving arrest can be catastrophic. Violators often face jail time and heavy fines, the loss of their driver’s license, higher insurance rates, attorney fees, time away from work and dozens of other unexpected expenses.

That’s why every American president since 1981 has proclaimed December as National Drunk and Drugged Driving (3D) Prevention Month. Because, to Georgia’s highway safety professionals, the causes behind those December holiday fatalities sound all too familiar:  Alcohol and drugs are always identified as major contributing factors and half the crash victims are unbuckled when they die.

How can we stop those needless deaths?  This year now marks the third consecutive Christmas season that Georgia has mobilized literally thousands of traffic enforcement officers across the state under the new national enforcement campaign called “Over The Limit. Under Arrest.” In Georgia, our crackdown is called Operation Zero Tolerance. Many officers are working double-shifts as we strategize to save lives.

Georgia’s statewide Operation Zero Tolerance holiday enforcement crackdown begins Dec. 19 and runs through Jan. 4. So I’m even telling motorists what days to watch out for blue lights because in Georgia, it’s not about writing more tickets. It’s about saving more lives.

I hope Georgia drivers will pay attention to our enforcement warning because perhaps the scariest revelation of all is that between the Thanksgiving and New Year’s holidays, travelers will unknowingly share roads across the country with more than 2.8 million drunk drivers who have three-or-more DUI convictions!

And if you find that frightening, another half million drunk drivers are still out there illegally on the roads after even five or more convictions. Is it any wonder we keep reminding motorists that their best defense against an encounter with a drunk driver is to always buckle their safety belt?

When we here at the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety count our blessings this holiday season, we’re thankful we can count on dedicated Georgia traffic enforcement partners to run their concentrated patrols and sobriety checkpoints to protect the millions of trusting motorists who hit the roads this weekend. Georgia’s high visibility enforcement efforts are crucial to reduce impaired driving crashes and DUI-deaths.

But the truth of the matter is, the Operation Zero Tolerance mobilization is just one step in the right direction. It takes more than crackdowns, public awareness campaigns and strict alcohol limit enforcement to save lives and keep drunk drivers off the road. It requires personal responsibility … responsibility that ultimately rests with each driver.

So remember … if you’re caught driving impaired this holiday season or anytime throughout the year, there are no excuses and no second chances. You will be arrested and you will go to jail. If you’re Over the Limit, you’re Under Arrest in Georgia.

Bob Dallas
Georgia Governor’s Office of Highway Safety