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Holiday drivers urged to think safety and stay sober

Roadside checkpoints targeting drunk drivers will greet area motorists at two locations on May 31.

Memphis Police and Shelby County sheriff's deputies will man the checkpoints. Federal law requires law enforcement officials to announce the checkpoints in advance.

The Memphis-area checkpoints will be on Kirby-Whitten between Reese and Raleigh-LaGrange from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m., and at Hacks Cross and Winchester between 11 p.m. and 1 a.m.

Meanwhile, Click it or Ticket, the national seat belt enforcement campaign, began May 21 and runs through June 3. The campaign involves state and local law enforcement agencies in efforts to enforce seat usage over the Memorial Day holiday weekend.

The 2012 Memorial Day holiday period begins at midnight Friday (May 25) and will end at 11:59 p.m. Monday (May 28).

Nineteen people were killed on Tennessee roadways during the 2011 Memorial Day holiday weekend. That's up from 13 fatalities in 2010. Last year, alcohol was involved in six of the fatalities, and 50 percent of the vehicle occupants killed were not wearing seat belts. During the 78-hour holiday time period, two pedestrians and seven motorcyclists were killed.

"Memorial Day marks the beginning of the summer holiday travel season. It's the perfect time to remind all motorists to buckle up. Tennessee state troopers will be working around the clock to enforce the seat belt law in an effort to ensure the safety of the motoring public," Department of Safety and Homeland Security Commissioner Bill Gibbons said.

As of May 22, 369 people have been killed on Tennessee roadways. That is 36 more vehicular fatalities than the 333 killed during the same time last year. Of the 290 vehicle occupant fatalities this year, more than 55 percent were not restrained.

THP also reports that 947 people were killed on state roadways in 2011. Of the 729 vehicle occupants killed, 51.9 percent were not wearing seat belts. Of those unrestrained vehicle occupants, 190 were killed during nighttime hours versus 160 during the daytime hours (28 had unknown time).

"More traffic-related fatalities can be prevented if motorists would simply wear their seat belt," THP Colonel Tracy Trott said. "Wearing a seat belt will cost you nothing, but wearing one may just save your life."

When worn correctly, seat belts have been proven to reduce the risk of fatal injury to front-seat passenger car occupants by 45 percent, and by 60 percent in pickup trucks, SUVs and minivans.

Colonel Trott also noted the number of alcohol-related fatalities from January 1 through May 22, 2012. In Tennessee, preliminary information indicates vehicular fatalities involving alcohol has increased 33 percent compared to this same time last year. Additionally, state troopers have made 1,941 DUI arrests through the first four months of the year. In 2011, the number of arrests made during that time was 1,359.

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