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“BOOZE AND BELTS” ARE TARGETS FOR END OF SUMMER ENFORCEMENT OPERATIONS

August 11, 2010 (LITTLE ROCK) – The Arkansas Highway Safety Office today announced plans for the Arkansas State Police to join forces with local law enforcement officers from 130 other agencies August 20th - September 6th in a combined alcohol and seat belt safety campaign. The “Booze and Belts” campaign was announced this morning during a news conference hosted by Colonel Winford E. Phillips, Director of the Arkansas State Police and the Governor’s Highway Safety representative. The Booze and Belts campaign is a new initiative that combines the “Click it or Ticket” and “Drunk Driving. Over the Limit, Under Arrest” campaigns. Law enforcement officers statewide will be looking for impaired drivers, as well as those who are not buckled-up. A review of 2008 traffic crash data indicates alcohol was determined to be a contributing factor in 29 percent of Arkansas traffic fatalities (based on drivers with a .08 BAC or higher). Seventy-two percent of those killed were not wearing a seat belt. \"During the Booze and Belts campaign and throughout the year, our goal is to save lives and prevent injuries, not to write more seat belt tickets or make more drunk driving arrests,” Colonel Phillips said. “We hope motorists will voluntarily decide to buckle-up and drive sober, but if they don’t, our intensified enforcement will increase their risk of getting caught.\" With the recent change to the Arkansas seat belt law, a vehicle may be stopped by police and the driver or passenger ticketed if either is not buckled-up. Under the new primary law, police officers are not required to observe a violation other than the seat belt in order to initiate the traffic stop. “Law enforcement officers would like motorists to enjoy the Labor Day holiday, but at the same time, keep safety in mind, said Lieutenant Terry Hastings of the Little Rock Police Department. “The use of a properly secured seat belt is the most effective means of protecting a driver or passenger from being ejected or thrown around inside a vehicle during a crash and it’s the best protection against a drunk driver,” Lieutenant Hastings stated. Law enforcement officers ask that all motorists remember that as the last summer holiday nears, an increase in highway traffic volume is common. Everyone should allow for extra time to make their respective trips, use their seat belts and if they plan to drink, rely upon a designated driver. Steve Shults, director of the Criminal Justice course studies at Black River Technical College Law Enforcement Training Academy, said driving while drunk is not worth the tremendous risk. \"No matter your age, if you've had too much to drink, you'd better find a safe and sober ride home or your chances of arrest are high since law enforcement agencies around the state will be conducting sobriety checkpoints anywhere, anytime.\" This year law enforcement agencies in Arkansas have access to a vital new tool to combat drunk driving. “With funding provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Arkansas State Police Highway Safety Office recently developed and implemented a Breath Alcohol Testing (BAT) Mobile Unit Program,” Shults said. The BATMobile is a high-tech 42-foot vehicle that will increase the visibility of DWI enforcement activities and also serve as a deterrent to potential drinking drivers. The BATMobile has been specially customized to meet the needs of law enforcement officers with “on-the-spot” capabilities for processing drunk and impaired driving suspects. Not only does this vehicle assist with enforcement; it’s also an educational center and it will be made available to law enforcement agencies at various events throughout the state. Colonel Phillips added, “The State Police Highway Safety Office is always exploring new ways to fight drunk driving in our state. We’re pleased that the BATMobile is now available to help law enforcement in this area. This will make a big difference where it’s needed most and serve as a deterrent to potential drinking drivers. We expect to see positive results in our battle against drunk driving.” For more information on the campaign or the BATMobile, call the Arkansas State Police Highway Safety Office at (501) 618-8136.