July 25, 2011
Public Affairs Office, (865) 436-1207
In conjunction with a two-year DUI prevention program, Great Smoky Mountains National Park recently conducted special law enforcement operations on the Park’s roadways during a 2-week period that resulted in seven DUI arrests and issuance of 36 citations and 66 warnings of various nature.
As part of this wave of DUI enforcement activities sponsored by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Park Rangers conducted two sobriety checkpoints and four special “saturation” road patrols, anchored with special messaging strategies to deter impaired driving and increase awareness of the consequences of this dangerous behavior.
During a sobriety checkpoint on the Foothills Parkway in Blount County, a Park Ranger observed a male driver throwing a beer can out of the car window as he approached the checkpoint. The man was pulled over and the investigation revealed the driver was impaired. He was arrested for driving under the influence. Two children under the age of 3 were in the vehicle, along with a sober passenger.
In addition to the seven DUI offenses, three individuals were arrested for public intoxication. Numerous citations were issued to motorists by Park Rangers. Infractions ranged from open containers of alcohol, underage possession of alcohol, and possession of controlled substance to speeding, littering, and failure to wear a seatbelt.
Chief Ranger Clayton Jordan said, “All these arrests were preventable if people just played it smart and followed some simple practices. The worst of it all is when innocent people are victims. The educational component of this program is to try and motivate people to not get behind the wheel of a car when drinking and to make them plan ahead by designating a sober driver or arranging for other transportation means. Planning ahead is the best method because people are in a better position to make responsible choices.” Jordan continued, “Alcohol-related accidents and fatalities continue to be a serious problem in the Park. In 2010, 75 people were charged with DUI offenses in the Park. In 11 of them, the driver was involved in a crash prior to being charged. We also had two fatal accidents that involved alcohol. That’s significant.”
Part of a deterrent, educational strategy is developing public information and advancing the message, “Don’t Drink and Drive”. The Park developed several communication tools to take the message home that included, 1) An advance press release on the special law enforcement operations; 2) a news brief placed in the Park’s official newspaper, Smokies Guide with the tag line; When You Go on Vacation, Don’t Go Home on Probation; 3) posters displayed on Park bulletin boards at high use areas; 4) Sobriety Checkpoint alerts posted at checkpoint locations for passing motorists to view; and 5) during the sobriety checkpoints, the 195 motor vehicles that went through the established checkpoints were given an informational “Don’t Drink and Drive” card.