POPLAR BLUFF -- Motorists are being asked by the Missouri State Highway Patrol to include safety in their New Year's celebration plans this weekend.
"If your plans include alcohol, choose a designated driver. Getting arrested could be the least of your concerns," said patrol Col. Roger D. Stottlemyre.
Court costs, medical bills and even jail time are all areas of concern.
"If you kill or injure someone, you'll pay a price for the rest of your life. The highway is no place for a driver who has been drinking," Stottlemyre said.
During the New Year's traffic crash counting period -- from 6 p.m. today to 11:59 p.m. Monday -- all available officers will be on the roadways.
Last year, 967 traffic crashes occurred in Missouri over the New Year's holiday weekend. In those crashes, 12 people were killed and 406 were injured. That is one person killed or injured every 7.8 minutes.
"Drunk drivers cause too many traffic crashes every year," Stottlemyre said. "The injuries and deaths that result from drunk driving can be prevented if people celebrate responsibly."
Also, since Dec. 1, the Patrol's Troop E has been conducting a series of special enforcement projects in the 13-county region of Southeast Missouri.
The projects will continue throughout January.
Already Troop E officers conducted the 2005 C.A.R.E. Life Saver Weekend Dec. 16-18. The primary roadways included in the program included: Interstates 55 and 57, U.S. 60, U.S. 61, U.S. 67, U.S. 412, MO 25 and MO 164.
During the program troopers investigated one fatality accident in Dunklin County and 11 other accidents on C.A.R.E. designated roadways. The Patrol also investigated four alcohol-related traffic crashes, arrested 15 individuals for DWI, issued 189 speeding violations, 201 speed warnings, 72 seat belt citations, issued 3 child restraint summonses and assisted 109 motorists.
Along with all other traffic regulations, troopers will be enforcing the 2002 statute, "Slow Down, Move Over," that requires motorists to slow down and move over (when possible) as they approach a stationary emergency vehicle.
Increased emphasis has been given to these types of projects due to the recent death of four Missouri State Highway Patrol troopers in traffic-related crashes.
"The Patrol has always emphasized the safety of Missouri's citizens to our troopers," said Capt. George Ridens, commanding officer of Troop E. "We owe it to our troopers to put their safety in the minds of the public.
Troopers from across Troop E will be working in organized enforcement activities throughout the troop and will be conducting less formal operations at the local zone level as manpower allows.
"When you see a stationary emergency vehicle, slow down and move over," Ridens said. "It's the law, and it will be enforced."