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Wednesday, December 19, 2018



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Zero for the Holidays campaign kicks off

Zero for the Holidays campaign kicks off

One of the hardest responsibilities for a state trooper is knocking on someone’s door and telling them their loved one was killed by a drunk driver, Capt. Frank Besson said.

“No mother, no father, no brother, no sister, aunt or uncle should ever have to hear that, especially when it comes to an impaired driver,” the Louisiana State Police Troop C commander said. “These crashes are totally preventable.”

Troop C and the South Central Regional Safety Coalition kicked off the annual Zero for the Holidays campaign Thursday. Now in its 17th year, the campaign runs through Jan. 1.

In addition to impaired driving, Zero for the Holidays targets speeding, unrestrained occupants, and aggressive and distracted driving.

“We focus on the holiday season because it’s so precious to all of us,” Besson said. “A lot of people travel on the roadways from Thanksgiving to New Year’s. This campaign is about zero deaths. There are too many lives that are lost because of impaired drivers or people making bad decisions.”

Troop C’s area, which covers Lafourche, Terrebonne and Assumption parishes, and the west banks of St. James and St. John parishes, recorded 38 fatality crashes last year, Besson said. Of those, 62 percent were alcohol-related.

This year, the area has had 30 fatality crashes so far and 53 percent of them involved alcohol. Besson wants to see that number drop to zero.

“Fifty-three percent is still unacceptable,” he said. “That’s why we’re here today.”

One number that Besson said he would like to see even higher is the number of motorists wearing seat belts. About 87.1 percent of drivers wear seat belts in Louisiana, but in Troop C’s area that number is 90.4 percent.

“That’s a token of working together day in and day out to keep people safe on the roads,” Besson said.

Lafourche District Attorney Kristine Russell said although law enforcement will step up patrols this holiday season, the ultimate responsibility to keep roads safer rests with drivers themselves.

“This is a wonderful time of the year,” Russell said. “We love to come together to celebrate the holidays with family and friends. But with these celebrations comes a responsibility.”

Ava Fontenot of Mothers Against Drunk Driving thanked law enforcement representatives from multiple parishes who joined together for a common goal.

“When you are out there on the roadway and are tired and feel like you’re not making an impact, trust me, you’re giving these people you’re pulling over a second chance at life,” she said. “Hopefully next time they’ll make better decisions before they get behind that wheel after they’ve been drinking.”

Law enforcement agencies will step up patrols in Terrebonne and Lafourche, and more troopers will patrol area highways throughout the holiday season, Besson said. But to reach the goal of zero deaths, the community must work together.

“We’re asking the public to help us out,” Besson said. “Make those good driving decisions. Drive sober, buckle up, take your time and make sure your children are fastened properly. This is something we take very seriously. During the holiday season we don’t want any empty seats around the table.”

Motorists can report suspected impaired drivers to local law enforcement agencies or State Police at *577.

-- Daily Comet Staff Writer Dan Copp can be reached at 857-2202 or at dan.copp@houmatoday.com. Follow him on Twitter@DanVCopp.