Oktibbeha County Sheriff’s Dept. and Highway Patrol brace for more drunk drivers leading up to Labor Day

STARKVILLE, Miss. (WCBI) – The Oktibbeha County Sheriff’s Department and Mississippi Highway Patrol are among the local law enforcement agencies taking part in the Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over initiative.

Running from August 17 to September 5, the annual campaign gives law enforcement the money to put more officers on the roads to curtail the historically high drunk driving numbers leading up to Labor Day.

Which is right about when Starkville starts to look and feel like Mississippi’s college town once again.

“All of a sudden in August, traffic doubles,” says Oktibbeha County Sheriff Steve Gladney. “School starts back, now college football is starting, high school football is on Friday nights.”

With Mississippi State students arriving on campus for the new semester, the Bulldogs getting set to kick-off the 2022 college football season and Labor Day Weekend on the way, Sheriff Gladney knows that all that celebrating can lead to bad decisions.

“We understand this is a college town, people go and drink,” he says. “But if you do, please call a friend, call a cab, call somebody. Don’t get behind the wheel after you’ve been drinking. It’s absolutely not worth it.”

It’s one of the reasons why the sheriff’s department is once again part of Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over, taking advantage of the federal funding to pay extra deputies to work the busy fall hours.

“Not only having them out there looking for drunk and impaired drivers, I have more manpower out on these busy times with all the traffic,” Sheriff Gladney says.

Troopers for the Mississippi Highway Patrol will be out there with them.

“(Labor Day Weekend) every available trooper will be out and about just maintaining a good strong presence, patrolling and enforcing the laws,” says MHP Sgt. Derrick Beckom.

Sgt. Beckom says that college football Saturdays can easily bring an extra 100,000 people to Starkville and increase traffic by at least 50 percent.

But with more officers, deputies and troopers out on patrol, Sgt. Beckom says that now more than ever, drivers need to follow the traffic safety laws meant to protect first responders.

“If you see blue lights, (and) we have someone pulled over, what you want to do is safely get (over) as far as you can,” the sergeant says. “But if you can’t get over, you want to slow down to 15 miles-per-hour below the speed limit.”

In a situation where a patrol car is not trying to pull a car over but is instead responding to a call, Sgt. Beckom says drivers should pull over to the right, as long as it is safe.

“Just because you see blue lights, don’t panic,” he says. “Just slow down, move over if you can, but again, if you can’t, just slow down to a safe speed and think of everyone’s safety.”

Because obeying those laws can be a matter of life and death during a traffic stop.

“Those laws are there for a reason,” Sheriff Gladney says. “Because every year, without fail, there’ll be a police officer or trooper somewhere killed.”

Sheriff Gladney says that the department has been part of this program for as long as he has been there, dating back at least 10 years.

Both he and MHP agree that night games in Starkville are especially busy. Mississippi State will start the 2022 season on September 3 hosting the Memphis Tigers at 6:30 p.m.

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