The goodwill and cheer of Christmas is now a memory, but our roads will be just as congested as we approach New Year’s, another time of celebration, remembrance and looking ahead. With such lighthearted days, and nights, will come the temptation by many to make poor decisions about getting home following celebratory gatherings where alcohol has been consumed.
Those whose senses have been impaired by social drinking or any form of substance abuse, legal or illicit — whether at family gatherings, New Year’s Eve parties or innocent dinners at area restaurants — are urged to think twice before getting behind the steering wheel of their vehicles.
Driver safety is of utmost concern among law enforcement professionals who are monitoring our roadways this holiday season, but a compounding factor is this. Intoxicated drivers are not just a danger to themselves. Rather, they place in peril the lives of others — passengers in their own vehicles and fellow motorists with whom they share the road.
Heartbreaking is the most appropriate description when hearing stories by family members who have lost loved ones, through no fault of their own, to a drunk d driver. It has happened in Bradley County over and over, and sadly it will occur again.
Those who best know the message of such tragedy are those who have lost parents, siblings, sons and daughters to intoxicated driving.
Families in Cleveland and Bradley County still mourn the loss of loved ones from this year alone when 11 local residents lost their lives on our roads. All were under the age of 35. Some were linked to alcohol consumption.
In 2010, 17 lives were lost on Cleveland and Bradley County byways.
Some might tire of hearing these reminders over and over during the year-ending holidays, but families still recovering from the loss of those who were so dear see the preciousness of life from a new perspective. They have felt the pain. They still live the sorrow. They cling to the memories of those lost.
Through its “Lifesaver” program launched two months ago, the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office has worked hard to educate the motoring public about speed — another cause of loss of life, especially on open roads like interstates and rural routes. As dangerous as excessive speed is to any motorist, alcohol consumption compounds the threat.
No one likes being pulled over by law enforcement professionals and ticketed for illegal acts. But as long as drivers abuse roadway privileges, and while some continue to ignore requests not to speed, operate vehicles recklessly or drink and drive, the safety endeavors by BCSO, Cleveland Police Department, Tennessee Highway Patrol, Charleston Police Department and others are not only necessary but justified.
Thankfully, safety awareness and aggressive enforcement campaigns are lowering traffic fatalities and vehicular crashes in our community. Area agencies and their combined personnel are to be commended for their dedicated service.
But lives are still being lost and most are the result of poor decisions. For this reason, local motorists will continue to see an increased presence of law enforcement officers during this holiday season.
They are not there to intimidate. They are there to protect.
Those officers working our roadways this holiday season are to be thanked for their dedication and their sacrifice in being separated from their own family gatherings.
We don’t ask that holiday revelers abstain from ringing in the new year.
We ask only that wise decisions be made in its aftermath.