The holiday season is here, and police officers around the country are gearing up to crack down on drunk driving. Police make an average of 20 DUI arrests every week in Oxford, but on game days and holidays the numbers increase. Oxford police officers made six arrests for DUI on New Year’s Eve alone in 2013. Fortunately there were no fatal wrecks anywhere in the state that day, according to the Mississippi Highway Patrol.
“The number of arrests has gone up in the last five years, but the number of deaths has been lowering,” Oxford Police Department Patrol Sergeant David Sabin said.
Throughout the state, law enforcement made more than 11,000 DUI arrests in 2013. The most recent statistics available for DUI-related deaths are for 2012; a year in which 179 people died because of drunk driving in Mississippi, according to Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
Locally, Sabin says the Oxford Police Department has now dedicated a whole department to crack down on drinking and driving – they call it the DUI Sector.
“The creation of the department was to help Mississippians realize how dangerous drinking and driving is, and it’s the department’s job is to create classes for those convicted in order to make sure they do not do it again.’
More than 1,000 people are arrested every year in Oxford for DUI-related charges. DUI stops, investigations and arrests closely follow the influx of visitors in the Oxford area during big weekends. Police often respond to the crowds by increasing the number of road-blocks looking to keep the community safe.
Oxford attorney Doug Hollowell has defended many college students for DUI arrests. He encourages people to think before they drink and drive. “With the increase in drivers, and the increase in DUI cases, both residents and visitors alike are urged to stay safe in their travels,” said Hollowell.
Some people don’t seem to get the message, though — the number of first, second and third offenses is still not as low as OPD would like. So far in 2014, about 600 people were arrested locally for second and third DUI offenses.
“It scares me to know there are people out there willing to risk their lives and the lives of other people on the road. Just call a taxi, it’s really not hard. I like having a good time, but drinking and driving is not worth anyone’s life; it’s just not,” said Ole Miss senior, Karina Guitierrez.
If the danger doesn’t scare you, the penalties might. For a first DUI offense in the state of Mississippi it is possible to serve up to 48 hours in jail along with a minimum $250 fine and a 90-day license suspension. With a second offense for a DUI, the penalty can be up to 1 year in jail, a $1,500 fine and a two-year license suspension. Those getting a DUI for the third time can face fines between $2,000 and $5,000 with up to five years in jail and a five-year license suspension. The state of Mississippi prohibits the operation of a motor vehicle with a 0.8% or above BAC (blood alcohol concentration).
“We really try to do our part in order to ensure that the citizens in the community are safe. We schedule routine checks in different parts of town to make sure there are minimal drunk drivers on the road,” said Sabin.
Story contributed by Ole Miss journalism student Ashleigh Culpepper, email@example.com.
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