Don't land on Santa's naughty list

To the editor:

While December brings holiday cheer for most, the holiday season will unfortunately bring highway tragedy for some. The Christmas travel period can be deadly, both here in Georgia, and across the country.

Our Federal and state crash data shows that the travel period between Thanksgiving and New Year's is one of the most dangerous times on our roads.

Impaired driving is the reason. It's one of America's deadliest crimes. In 2008, 11,733 Americans died in highway crashes involving drivers with illegal blood alcohol concentrations of .08 or higher. Equally disturbing is the revelation that nearly one-in-four female drivers killed in crashes in 2008 also had an illegal BAC.

That's why the Governor's Office of Highway Safety (GOHS) is joining with hundreds of highway safety partners across the state for this year's Operation Zero Tolerance holiday enforcement campaign. During this high-visibility program of sobriety checkpoints and increased patrols, drivers detected Over the Limit will be placed Under Arrest.

Right here in Georgia, 24 people died during the 2008 Christmas travel period. The sad fact is one-out-of-three of our fatal highway crashes each year is caused by impaired drivers. Make no mistake, our message is simple: No matter who you are or what you drive, if you're caught driving impaired, you will be arrested. No warning tickets. No exceptions. No excuses.

Overall, Georgia experienced 7,814 alcohol-involved crashes in 2008! At GOHS, we're hoping this Operation Zero Tolerance holiday enforcement campaign will help keep those numbers from increasing in this final month of 2009.

Too many drivers don't realize the risks involved with driving while impaired. During the holidays, celebrations abound, spirits are high and travel increases. Unfortunately, drunk driving is usually on the rise as well. Last year, 888 people were killed in crashes involving a driver with a BAC of .08 or above. That math is just too deadly to ignore.

How can we stop these needless deaths? This year marks the fourth consecutive Christmas season that Georgia has mobilized literally thousands of traffic enforcement officers around the state under the new "Over the Limit, Under Arrest" national DUI enforcement campaign. Many officers are working double-shifts during this holiday travel period to help save more lives.

Georgia's statewide Operation Zero Tolerance holiday enforcement crackdown begins Friday, Dec. 18, and runs through Sunday, Jan. 3, 2010. And just so you know, it's not about revenue and it's not about writing more tickets. We're telling motorists when to watch out for more flashing blue lights in their rearview mirror because this campaign is truly about saving lives.

When we count our blessings this holiday season, we know we can count on our dedicated enforcement partners to run their concentrated patrols and sobriety checkpoints to protect the millions of innocent motorists who will take to the roads to visit families and friends this month. Georgia's high visibility enforcement efforts are crucial to reduce impaired driving crashes and DUI deaths.

For more information about Operation Zero Tolerance, visit the GOHS web

site at www.gahighwaysafety.org.

BOB DALLAS, Director

Governor's Office of Highway Safety