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ENFORCEMENT CAMPAIGN WILL TARGET UNDERAGE DRINKING

March 10, 2010 (LITTLE ROCK) – The Arkansas State Police will be working closely with other state, county and city law enforcement agencies March 12-21 and April 16-25 conducting sobriety checkpoints and saturation patrols. Officers will be looking for drunk drivers of all ages, but with an emphasis directed toward teenage drivers. According to highway safety officials, motor vehicle crashes remain the number one killer of teens in America and nearly one-third of the fatality crashes are alcohol related. Mile for mile, teenagers are involved in three times as many fatal crashes as all other drivers. A statistical analysis indicates drivers in the age group of 15 to 20 years old are especially vulnerable to death and injury on roadways. “There is an increased potential for teen crashes during this season of the year that is attributed to the typical celebrations associated with spring break, proms, graduations, and end-of-school-year events which tend to put teens at risk when behind the wheel of a truck or car,” said Colonel Winford E. Phillips, Director of the Arkansas State Police and Governor’s Highway Safety Representative. “We want to send a strong message to all teens that underage drinking is against the law, and there is a zero tolerance policy in effect when it comes to drinking and driving in Arkansas.” “Every year, young people under the age of 21 make bad choices to consume alcohol and are injured or killed in car crashes,” Phillips said. “As a law enforcement officer, there is no greater tragedy we face than dealing with the aftermath of underage drinking and the toll it takes on families, friends and the community. I often hear parents and friends ask how this could happen. Unfortunately, it happens all too often and only takes one wrong decision.” The underage drinking campaign is designed to increase awareness of the dangers of teen drinking and driving through heightened enforcement, paid media and school-based educational activities. Statewide television and radio “Drunk Driving: Underage Drinking. Zero Tolerance” advertisements will air to remind teens and young adults that underage drinking and driving is a crime that will not be tolerated. The Arkansas Department of Education has joined with the State Police Highway Safety Office to display educational posters in high schools during this high-risk time and encourage students through public address announcements to avoid the consequences of underage drinking. “Our young people are everybody’s responsibility. By working together – parents, educators, law enforcement and neighbors – we can help these young drivers ages 15-20 make good decisions that will keep them safe,” said Romell Cooks, Regional Administrator with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. “Excessive speed, improper restraint and alcohol use are particularly high in this age group and contribute significantly to death and injury. Cooperation among those with influence on young people can work to reduce tragedy. So let’s all work together to improve the safety and health of this precious segment of our population.” For more information on underage drinking prevention visit www.stopimpaireddriving.org or call the Arkansas State Police Highway Safety Office at (501)-618-8136.