Louisiana officers to target impaired drivers during Mardi Gras

Louisiana officers to target impaired drivers during Mardi Gras
Amber Roussel (Source: Family members)
Amber Roussel (Source: Family members)

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Carnival season has been dubbed the single most dangerous holiday on Louisiana roadways. That is according to the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission (LHSC). The agency reports, in 2015, during Mardi Gras weekend, six people died in crashes that involved a drunk driver.

The LHSC and law enforcement have launched a campaign that aims to clamp down on impaired drivers. Those who have lost loved ones to drunk drivers urge everyone to only drive if they are sober.

Melba Williams remembers the day she lost her daughter in a horrific crash.

"She left here on Monday July 30, 2012. She d ropped her babies off to me and was headed with her husband out of Baton Rouge to go to a meeting and getaway in Houston," Williams said.

It would be the last time she would hear from her daughter, Amber Roussel. The 30-year-old, mother of three, was killed when police said a drunk driver caused a crash on I-10 in Beaumont, Texas.

"It changes your dynamic. It changes your structure," Williams said.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports the number of crashes involving impaired motorists spike during carnival season.

According to the agency, last year, there were 599 fatal and injury crashes on Louisiana roadways during the five days leading up to Mardi Gras. Ten people died, six of them at the hands of a drunk driver.

In 2014, there were 601 fatal and injury crashes, 13 deaths. Seven were alcohol-related.

Law enforcement officers across the state have gotten on board with the LHSC's Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign.

Louisiana State Police Major Doug Cain said officers will be looking for anyone who appears to be intoxicated behind the wheel.

"The best rule is, one drink is one too many. If you are going to get behind that wheel, yourself, with your friends and your family, absolutely no alcohol,"
Maj. Cain said.

Officers urge revelers who chose to drink to plan ahead for a ride home. A taxi might cost a few dollars, but they warn it is much cheaper than getting busted.

Williams hopes her daughter's story will help everyone think twice.

"There's no one who says you shouldn't drink. You shouldn't drink and drive. Period," Williams said.

If you suspect an impaired driver on the road, you can report them by dialing *LSP (577) on your cell phone.

Williams is a volunteer with Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), a group that offers services to victims of drunk drivers. She invites those who are interested in supporting their efforts to sign up for its annual fundraiser, "Walk like MADD."

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