Thanksgiving weekend starts tonight for police patrols

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving weekend starts at 6 p.m. today for police officers.

That's when they step up patrols, looking to get drunken drivers off the street, distracted drivers back on track and those racing to meet family or friends to slow down.

"We have extra officers on duty whose job it is to remove intoxicated drivers from the roadway," said Sgt. Kevin Orr of Cape Girardeau Police Department's traffic division.

Orr said those who do drink over the holidays should take advantage of rides offered by a sober designated driver or commercial transportation in a cab or bus.

Missouri State Highway Patrol issued its annual reminder to drivers to make sure cars are in good working order, wear seat belts and designate a sober driver before having a drink. The statement also reminded drivers to get enough sleep and avoid driving while drowsy.

Last Thanksgiving weekend in Missouri, 10 people were killed and 572 were injured in 1,572 traffic crashes -- the equivalent of a death or injury every 10 minutes. Since 2005, 78 people have died and 2,957 have been injured in Thanksgiving weekend crashes.

The highway patrol is participating in Operation CARE (Combined Accident Reduction Effort) by increasing patrols to focus on drunken driving, speeding, seat belt use and assisting motorists as needed.

"If you look at fatal or personal injury crashes, alcohol was a factor in 10.6 percent of those crashes," said Lt. John Hotz, a highway patrol spokesman.

Speed, however, is the single biggest contributor to fatal or personal injury crashes, he said. Inattention is second, followed by failure to yield.

Jackson police chief James Humphreys posted a safety message on his website, including a link for residents to use in requesting extra patrols if they are out of town or reporting crimes at www.jacksonpd.org.

Lt. Dennis Dolan of Scott City Police Department said that even after Thanksgiving weekend, officers will be watching to make sure people attending holiday parties get home safely -- or off the road if they overindulge. Scott City and other area police departments are participating in a special heightened drunken driving patrol during the week of Dec. 8 through 14, and have offered a website, www.saveMOlives.com, to educate the public.

pmcnichol@semissourian.com

388-3646

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