MDOT urges safety for motorists this New Year’s

Published 10:40 am Thursday, December 29, 2016

The year is winding down, and the time of New Year’s resolutions and college football bowl games is quickly approaching.

During this New Year’s holiday, motorists across the state will hit the roads, eager to spend time with loved ones, celebrate the end of the year and welcome a new one.

It’s one of the busiest travel times of the year, and unfortunately, that means more crashes. No matter if you’re traveling across town or across the country, the Mississippi Department of Transportation urges all drivers to remember that being safe can be as easy as planning ahead and not drinking and driving.

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According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, each year in the U.S. more than 10,000 people die on our roadways due to impaired driving, which is the equivalent of about 20 jumbo jet crashes each year. In December 2015, NHTSA reported that there were 840 people killed in crashes on our nation’s roads involving at least one drunk driver.

Last year in Mississippi, 162 people were killed in alcohol-related crashes. This accounts for 24 percent of all fatalities on Mississippi highways, which is down from 31 percent in 2012, but a number that is still too high. Additionally, more than 1,100 people were injured in alcohol or drug-related crashes statewide in 2015.

“We want everyone to have fun while celebrating the new year with family and friends,” said MDOT Executive Director Melinda McGrath. “The risks are not worth it, and the consequences of driving after drinking are serious. Making a plan before you celebrate is an easy, but effective, way to celebrate responsibly.”

MHP out in force

The Mississippi Highway Patrol will begin the New Year’s enforcement period at 6 p.m. on Saturday and will conclude Sunday at midnight. Troopers will be conducting multiple safety checkpoints at various locations in order to remove impaired drivers from the roadways.

During the 2015 period, MHP investigated 79 vehicle crashes but recorded no fatalities on state, federal highways, and interstate systems.

“If plans include alcohol, please designate a sober driver before festivities start,” said MHP spokesman Capt. Johnny Poulos. “No one should begin 2017 with being arrested, facing medical bills, legal fees, and perhaps losing their job. If loss of life occurs due to an impaired driver, people pay the price for the rest of their lives. New Year’s is a great opportunity for us to enjoy time spent with family and friends. Responsible decisions ensure safe travel and joyous celebrations for all.”

On New Year’s Eve in Oxford last year, police officers made four arrests for DUI; however, no serious or fatal wrecks occurred in Lafayette County.

MDOT offers these additional tips for safe driving this New Year’s:

•Buckle up.  It provides your best defense against injury or death in a crash. Facts don’t lie: seat belts save lives.

•Don’t drive distracted; concentrate on the road and your surroundings.

•Slow down and be mindful of construction work zones and animals darting across the roadways.

•Be aware of other drivers; don’t assume that everyone else is driving as safely as you.