Sheriff urges safety as holiday season approaches

Published 8:45 am Monday, November 24, 2014

The Dec. 26, 2013, edition of the Baton Rouge Morning Advocate carried a very sad story of an Acadia Parish man who was arrested for a fourth-offense DWI after he caused an accident that killed one woman and sent two to the hospital on Christmas night. This is a scene that should not be repeated during the upcoming holiday season.

Statistics indicate there is an alarming increase in DWI offenses and alcohol-related highway deaths during the holiday season beginning Thanksgiving eve and continuing through Jan. 2. It is estimated that the number of DWI offenders increases 30 percent during the Thanksgiving holiday, 33 percent on Christmas Eve and a staggering 155 percent on New Year’s Eve. During the extended holiday season, as many as 1,200 persons are predicted to be killed by drunk drivers nationwide and another 25,000 injured.

For many people, the holidays are a time to gather with friends and family for a time of celebration. Whether the gathering is in a bar, a private home, a restaurant or another party location, alcohol often is served, and there are always persons who consume alcohol and then get behind the wheel to travel home. All too often, impaired drivers are involved in accidents which kill or injure innocent persons.

Washington Parish Sheriff Randy Seal cautions all persons who drink during the holidays, or any other time, not to drive.

“If you drink, don’t drive. Even one drink impairs a person’s ability to safely operate a motor vehicle. Our deputies will be working throughout the holiday season and will arrest impaired drivers and carry them to jail. Once they get there, they can expect to stay locked up until they are sober. Only then can they be released on bond. The minimum jail stay for DWI is eight hours,” he said.

Seal continued, “If you plan to drink, plan ahead for a sober ride home. Someone in the party group should be the person appointed to stay sober and serve as the driver. Too often, a designated driver is the person who consumes the least amount of alcohol. This is a dangerous practice. The designated driver should consume no alcohol, not even one drink.”

The Washington Parish Sheriff’s Office has received a grant from the Louisiana Highway Traffic Safety Commission to counteract drunk driving. Deputies will be out in force throughout the holidays, conducting DWI checkpoints and patrolling for impaired drivers.