LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Drivers under the influence are at a greater risk than ever as a new law enforcement program rolls out.

Arkansas State Police stated that beginning Aug. 19 weekend law enforcement, including police and sheriffs, will increase patrols targeting drivers who are under the influence. The program, under the Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over initiative, is part of a joint mission with United States Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Administration.

“We want Arkansans to understand it’s our first priority to keep people safe,” Colonel Bill Bryant, Director of the Arkansas State Police and the Governor’s Highway Safety Representative said.  “No one gets a free pass; drunk drivers go to jail.”

The program will continue through Labor Day weekend.

Statistics from the NHTSA show that 11,654 people were killed in vehicle crashes in 2020 involving an alcohol impaired driver.  On average, more than 10,000 people were killed each year from 2016 to 2020, and one person was killed in a drunk driving crash every 45 minutes in 2020.

You can help. Per state police, if you see a drunk driver on the road, call 9-1-1.

A .08% Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) is enough to charge someone with being under the influence. If under 21 years old, only a .02% BAC is required.

Arkansas drunk driving penalties:

  • First offense: punishable by up to 1 year in prison or up to 30 days community service, and up to $1,000 in fines.
  • Second offense within 5 years after first offense: punishable by up to 1 year in prison or up to 60 days community service, and up to $3,000 in fines.
  • Third offense within 5 years after first offense: punishable by up to 1 year in prison or 90 days community service, and up to $5,000 in fines.
  • Fourth offense within 5 years after first offense: a felony punishable by up to 6 years in prison or 1 year of community service, and up to $5,000 in fines.
  • Fifth offense within 5 years after first offense: a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison or up to 2 years of community service, and up to $5,000 in fines.

Pre-planning is the best way to avoid being put in a position to risk driving under the influence. Arkansas State Police recommends designating a sober driver or using public transportation or a ride service.

Also, if you know someone who is about to drive or operate a motorcycle or any other vehicle while impaired, take their keys and help them make other arrangements to get to their destination safely.

And state police remind: Always buckle up.  A seat belt is your best defense against the drunk driver.