To kick off the 2011 holiday season, the Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety and the Missouri State Highway Patrol (MSHP) launched their joint “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” campaign to emphasize that driving impaired is dangerous and has legal consequences. MSHP Superintendent Ronald Replogle, said, “Our message is simple. No matter what you drive – a passenger car, pickup truck, sport utility vehicle or motorcycle – if we catch you driving impaired, we will arrest you.”

The campaign’s goal is to prevent tragedies like the death of 31-year-old Laura Fisher who was killed by a drunk driver in January 2011. The alcohol-impaired driver ran a red light on U.S. Highway 69 near Cameron, Missouri, hitting Fisher’s car and killing her. The drunk driver, who had four previous driving while intoxicated (DWI) convictions, jumped out of his truck and ran. He was convicted of second-degree murder and felony DWI, and sentenced to 34 years in prison.

According to the MSHP, over 36 percent of all Missouri traffic fatalities in 2010 involved drugs or alcohol. Missouri drunk drivers killed 217 people and injured another 897 in 2010. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) ranks Missouri 35th among states for drunk driving fatalities.

The holiday season can be especially dangerous because more people are traveling and winter weather further increases driving hazards. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas 2010, Missouri drunk driving accidents resulted in 20 fatalities and over 300 injuries.

The legal consequences for even a first DWI offense in Missouri can be substantial. The driver can lose their license for 90 days, pay up to $500 in fines and spend up to 6 months in jail. If the impaired driving causes a fatal accident, the driver can be charged with involuntary manslaughter, resulting in up to seven years of prison time and up to $5,000 in fines.

The risks of driving impaired are simply not worth taking. Missouri’s “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” campaign is hoping to drive that message home and prevent tragedies that permanently change the lives of everyone involved.

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