LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- Beginning this week the Arkansas State Police Highway Safety Office will join state, county and city law enforcement agencies to increase the number of sobriety checkpoints and saturation patrols on state highways and local streets and roads.
State troopers, sheriff's deputies and police officers across the state will ramp-up their efforts to identify and arrest drunk drivers of all ages, but with a special emphasis directed toward impaired teenage drivers.
The 20-day special enforcement operation will begin March 9th, and continue through March 18th, then again on April 13th - 22nd.
The campaign purposely coincides with the spring season when many teenagers are on school breaks, celebrating proms and attending graduation parties.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), alcohol related fatalities involving individuals under the age of twenty-one increases during this time of the year.
Motor vehicle crashes remain the leading cause of death among U.S. teens overall. During 2010 there were 47 drivers and passengers in Arkansas under the age of twenty-one involved in alcohol-related fatal crashes.
"Each year during end-of-school celebrations there are young people under the age of 21 who consume alcohol at proms and parties and are subsequently injured or killed in highway crashes," said Colonel JR Howard, Director of the State Police and Governor's Highway Safety Representative.
"We want to do whatever we can to prevent families from having to endure that kind of tragedy," Colonel Howard stated.
Drivers under 21 in Arkansas can be arrested for Driving Under the Influence (DUI) if they have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) between .02 and .07. If an underage driver is apprehended with a BAC of .08 or greater, law enforcement officers are required to arrest the person for Driving While Intoxicated (DWI).
A DUI conviction for an individual under the age of 21 can result in the loss of driving privileges, fines of up to $2,000, along with required community service. A teenage convicted of DWI faces the same criminal penalties as an adult which includes jail sentencing, fines and court costs, license suspension, community service and possibly other punishments. Insurance premiums for anyone convicted DUI or DWI typically increases significantly.
The objective in the coming weeks is to raise awareness of the serious and deadly consequences of impaired driving for teenagers through heightened law enforcement programs and paid media campaigns. The overall message is one of deterrence, designed to make teens think twice about drinking and driving, risking their lives as well as those of other motorists.
"The bottom line is that underage drinking is illegal," said Colonel Howard, "and if teens drive impaired, we will find them and arrest them. Where public safety is concerned, there is no room for exceptions to the law."
More information relating to the prevention of underage drinking can be found at TrafficSafetyMarketing.gov or contact the Arkansas State Police Highway Safety Office at (501) 618-8136.
(Source: Arkansas State Police)