Story last updated at 12/23/2009 - 12:19 pm
JUNEAU - In an effort to combat one of the nation's deadliest preventable crimes, the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities' (DOT&PF) Alaska Highway Safety Office is joining forces with the Alaska State Troopers and local law enforcement agencies to crack down on drunk drivers during the holidays.
The agencies will implement the annual "Drunk Driving, Over the Limit, Under Arrest" impaired driving campaign from Dec. 16 through Jan. 3, 2010.
In 2008, Alaska recorded 62 traffic fatalities, in which 45 percent (28) were alcohol-related. To date, there have been 58 traffic fatalities on Alaska's roads, of which 24 percent (14) have been related to alcohol. These numbers are based on preliminary reports and are subject to change.
This season's effort is supported by $7.5 million in paid national advertising to help alert everyone that if they are caught driving impaired, they will be arrested.
"Drunk driving is simply not worth the risk," said DOT&PF Commissioner Leo von Scheben. "Not only do you risk killing yourself or someone else, but the trauma and financial costs of a crash or an arrest for impaired driving can be significant. Violators often face jail time, the loss of their driver's license, higher insurance rates, attorney fees, time away from work, and dozens of other expenses."
"Alaska's traffic fatalities may be on a downward trend, but the alcohol-related ones remain consistently high," said Cindy Cashen, DOT&PF's Alaska Highway Safety Office administrator. "The consumption of alcohol and driving just don't mix and the results can end up deadly no matter how many drinks you've had."
The Alaska State Trooper director, Col. Audie Holloway, emphasized that his forces will be paying particularly close attention to potential drunk drivers during the enforcement campaign.
"Our message is simple. No matter whom you are or what you drive, if we catch you driving impaired, we will arrest you. No exceptions. No excuses," Holloway said.
The Anchorage Police Department's acting police chief, Steve Smith, said that his department is an active participant in the yearly DUI crackdown event in which his officers are dedicated to removing drunk drivers from that city's streets.
"Driving with a blood alcohol level of .08 or higher is illegal in every state," Smith said. "Yet we continue to see too many people suffer debilitating injuries and loss of their loved ones as a result of impaired driving. This careless disregard for human life must stop. To help ensure that happens, we are dedicated to arresting impaired drivers wherever and whenever we find them."