Fact: Alcohol has long been known as a roadway killer. Drinking and driving kills 28 people a day in in the U.S. — about one person every 52 minutes, according to the NHTSA. That is more than 10,000 lives lost each year to drunk driving. Drunk driving is responsible for about one-third of traffic fatalities.

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Twenty-three Mississippi Highway Patrol troopers -- including one from Starkville-based G Troop which serves this area -- were recently recognized for their efforts to combat impaired driving.

Law enforcement officers from 21 agencies statewide were recognized during the 2020 DUI (Driving Under the Influence) 100 Club Awards Luncheon.

The annual event was hosted by Sobriety Trained Officers Representing Mississippi. (STORM), according to MHP Director Col. Randy Ginn.

The DUI 100 Club was established in 1983 to recognize law enforcement officers across the state who write at least 100 DUI citations in a calendar year.

The 23 troopers at the luncheon wrote more than 2,000 citations for impaired driving, “ultimately preventing crashes and saving lives,” according to Mississippi Department of Public Safety Commissioner Sean Tindell.

The Troop G officer is Raphael McClain, Honorable Mention, credited with 74 citations.

Every officer who writes a DUI ticket deserves our appreciation for making our roads safer by pulling some drunk or drugged driver off the road.

Drunken drivers -- whether drunk from liquor or other chemicals -- who kill or maim themselves and innocent other people are a nationwide problem.

Drunken driving crashes have become the nation's greatest killer of people between 16 and 24. Those crashes cause nearly half the nation's highway deaths, according to federal safety authorities.

Drunken drivers butcher Americans much faster than did the Viet Nam War, and cost society billions of dollars in court time, rehabilitation, lost earnings and other expenses.

In the official 10 bloody years of Viet Nam, about 54,000 U. S. soldiers were killed. During the same period of time, about 100,000 U. S. citizens died in crashes involving alcohol, according to federal statistics.

Despite that carnage, Mississippi roads are safer than many other roads nationwide, according to statistics. The Century Club officers, as well as every other officer who writes a DUI ticket, are certainly part of the reason why.

Of 10,142 alcohol-related traffic fatalities nationwide in 2018, only about 664 came from Mississippi, according to 2019 figures. The state isn’t even in the top 16 states alcohol-related traffic fatalities. By comparison, Texas led the nation that year with 1,677; Vermont was the lowest with 23.

Sadly, federal highway safety figures indicate that less than one percent of all drunken drivers are arrested. For those who are, their chances of going to jail or paying much of a fine for hurtling a ton of steel out of control are minimal.

What's needed is long suspensions of licenses and mandatory jail terms. If the punishment is to deter, obviously severity has to increase.

Until those days come, if they ever do, every DUI ticket written helps get at least one drunken driver off the road, however briefly.

And the time the drunken driver is in drydock corners a potential killer, and gives the rest of the drivers and passengers an increased chance to arrive alive.

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