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State Launches Safe Driving Campaign; Closes Correctional Boot Camp Unit

From Senator Larry Teague

August 26, 2016

LITTLE ROCK – The State Police will continue its traffic safety campaign through the end of the Labor Day weekend.

The State Police Highway Safety Office is partnering with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to stop drunk driving and save lives.

Drinking alcohol was a factor in 162 traffic fatalities, or 40 percent of all deaths on the highway over the Labor Day weekend of 2014. Every year for the previous five years, an average of 10,000 people nationwide died in crashes caused by drunk driving.

In Arkansas the State Police are conducting a high-visibility enforcement campaign called “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over.” The standing order for state and local law enforcement officers is zero tolerance for driving while under the influence of alcohol. They will operate sobriety checkpoints and will be patrolling the roads in greater numbers than usual over the holiday weekend.

The total number of traffic fatalities in the United States may surpass 40,000 this year. If so, it would be the first time since 2007. In recent years, the number of traffic fatalities has hovered around 32,000 and 33,000.

Last year the total increased to about 35,000. Traffic safety experts attribute the recent increase in fatalities to a surge in driving, made possible by relatively low prices for gasoline. Also, cheaper gas means that more people drive further distances for vacations and holidays, which is riskier than driving on familiar streets in your hometown.

Since the federal Transportation Department began its nationwide census of fatal traffic accidents in 1975, the record for a single year occurred in 1979. That year 51,093 people were killed on the highways.

As of last week, in Arkansas there had been 337 fatalities in 2016. The Highway Safety Office makes these recommendations: designate a sober driver when you expect to consume alcohol; if you have been drinking call a taxi, a friend or a family member to drive you; report any drunk drivers you see to authorities, promptly; always wear seat belts, and if you drive a motorcycle wear protective gear.

Boot Camp to Close

The state Board of Correction voted to close the boot camp for first time non-violent offenders. The unit was near Tucker and in the past has been at the Wrightsville Unit.

The boot camp had space for 100 men and 24 women. Beds have been vacant in increasing numbers because eligible inmates were not choosing to participate, even after the rigorous military style calisthenics and marching were eliminated.

The 86 men and women now enrolled in the boot camp will be allowed to finish the program.

The facility will be converted into a work release center for women and “re-entry” center that helps them transition back into society.

The Correction Department has dedicated a new facility, a re-entry center for male inmates at Pine Bluff. It is called the Barbara Ester Unit, in honor of an officer killed by an inmate in 2012 at the East Arkansas Regional Unit at Brickeys. Corporal Ester, 47, had served for 12 years.

She was the second security officer killed by an inmate in Arkansas. In 1995 Sergeant Scott Grimes, 41, was killed by an inmate in the Tucker Unit. The Grimes Unit near Newport is named after him.

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