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Popular holiday can be deadly in Louisiana

Published 11:45 pm Friday, December 26, 2014

From staff reports
L’Observateur

BATON ROUGE — Those planning to ring in the New Year with alcohol better secure a sober ride home.

More Louisiana motorists died in alcohol-related crashes over the New Years holiday last year than in the previous year, and New Years was one of Louisiana’s deadliest holidays in 2013, with alcohol a factor in every fatality.

As a result, law enforcement and highway safety officials are reminding motorists they will be extra vigilant in identifying impaired drivers and enforcing Louisiana’s DWI laws.

Last year, on New Years Eve and New Years Day, there were 137 fatal and injury crashes on Louisiana roads, resulting in 233 injuries and eight deaths, according to preliminary figures. All of the fatalities were alcohol related. While there were fewer crashes from the previous year’s holiday, there were more fatalities.

As part of its “Drive Sober of Get Pulled Over” campaign, which runs through Jan. 3, the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission has provided grants across the state to conduct saturation patrols and DWI checkpoints.

The campaign, which began Dec. 18, ahead of the Christmas season, is designed to raise awareness of Louisiana’s DWI laws and the dangers of driving while under the influence of alcohol.

“Unfortunately, we tend to see more fatal, alcohol-related crashes over the New Years holiday,” said Lt. Col. John LeBlanc, executive director of the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission. “The fact that we had so many of these fatal crashes in Louisiana last year over just two days confirms the wisdom of our ‘Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over’ campaign.”

Driving while intoxicated is a serious issue, with a first-offense arrest costing thousands of dollars, plus court costs and even jail time. An adult is legally intoxicated with a BAC of .08 or greater. The limit for drivers under 21 is .02 BAC.

LeBlanc said there have been reports of a rash of fatal car crashes throughout Louisiana in recent weeks that have pointed to driver impairment as a factor.

According to Colonel Mike Edmonson, Superintendent of the Louisiana State Police, since Thanksgiving state troopers have worked fatal crashes involving over 60 fatalities, “Twenty percent of the fatal crashes involved confirmed impairment and in another 51 percent impairment may have played a role,” Edmonson said.

However, he asked the public to remember the human beings behind the statistics when they travel Louisiana’s roadways this holiday season: “Troopers will continue informative educational campaigns. However, Troopers need your help. Make a commitment to never drive impaired. …Make safety a priority.”

LeBlanc offered the followed advice to motorists celebrating the New Year’s holiday: “If you’re going to ring in the New Year, please do it responsibly. If you’re planning to drink, secure a sober ride home ahead of time. Please don’t hesitate to step in and stop others from driving impaired, and don’t ever get in the vehicle with an impaired driver.”