December in the Bluegrass is filled with joyous occasions, family tradition and festive events celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and New Year's Eve. Many of these holiday gatherings will include the consumption of alcohol, lending way to the potential for impaired drivers on Kentucky roadways.

Every year, law enforcement officials make a plea to those who drink to stay off the roads. Statistics show that the holiday season has the greatest incidence for crashes involving alcohol.

The Kentucky State Police will be participating in the “Over the Limit. Under Arrest” impaired driving enforcement campaign sponsored by the Kentucky Office of Highway Safety.

The official holiday enforcement period begins Thursday at 6 p.m. and extends through Sunday.

“Life is too precious to be lost in a senseless tragedy that causes indescribable hardship,” said Rodney Brewer, KSP commissioner. “KSP has a ‘no-tolerance’ policy. If you are caught driving under the influence, you will go to jail.”

No warnings or second chances will be given, Brewer said. Operating a vehicle with a blood alcohol content of .08 will result in an immediate arrest, even for a first offense.

Brewer said KSP will increase road patrols and operate safety checkpoints statewide during the holiday period cracking down on drunk drivers.

“Make no mistake, our message is simple. No matter what you drive, if you are caught driving impaired, you will be arrested. No exceptions, no excuses. We will be out in force to take drunk drivers off the road - and save lives that might otherwise be lost,” said Brewer.

On Nov. 3, 2007, many lives were forever changed when Trooper Dusty Corbin responded to the scene of a crash that challenged his emotions and left him with a permanent image of a young life lost.

Eighteen-year-old Samantha Spade was driving to Warsaw, Ky., to meet a friend when she encountered a drunk driver traveling at a high rate of speed. The driver lost control of his car, crossed the center line and collided head on with Samantha’s car.

Samantha recently had graduated from high school as class valedictorian and started classes at Northern Kentucky University to become a nurse. Tragically, her accomplishments and her future dreams ended at the scene of that crash as she lost her life at the hands of a drunk driver.

“The death of Samantha is yet another example of a heart-wrenching tragedy that could have been prevented,” said Trooper Corbin. “Although the driver pleaded guilty and is serving a 20-year sentence for this crime, I don’t know of any punishment that could bring justice for Samantha.”

Samantha’s mother, Debbie Powers, received a phone call that no parent ever wants to get – that her daughter had been killed by a drunk driver.

“My life will never be the same. I have suffered the ultimate loss – the loss of a child,” said Powers. “Some days the pain is unbearable and all I can think about is my baby girl and wishing I could hold her one more time.”

“I sincerely hope that no parent ever has to suffer the loss of a child at the hands of a drunk driver,” added Powers. “It’s a loss that could be prevented if one would only choose to make a wise decision versus a selfish one.”

Lt. David Jude, Commander of the Highway Safety Branch urges friends and family members to take the keys away from anyone who consumes alcohol and arrange for them to be driven home.

“We know there are going to be holiday celebrations and office parties this time of year where alcohol will be consumed, so your best bet is to always designate a sober driver before the parties begin,” Jude said.

“In my experience, a lot of people who get behind the wheel of a car, and had the proverbial ‘two beers,' honestly don't believe they're intoxicated," Jude added. "They don't believe they have consumed enough alcohol to reach the presumptive level of .08, but in fact, they have."

“In 2008, KSP made 29,064 DUI arrests in the Commonwealth,” remarked Jude. “We need every citizen’s help to keep impaired drivers off the road.”

To report an impaired or erratic driver, call KSP at 1-800-222-5555.

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