On December 1, Nevada Highway Troopers on the graveyard shift put up a Christmas tree to celebrate the lives potentially saved this Christmas season.
Each time a trooper arrests an impaired driver, a new ornament is added to the tree and represents a life saved by removing a drunk driver from the roadways.
“It is one of those things where our mission is to leave the valley a little better than we found it. We’re putting an extra emphasis on it this month, spokesperson Anthony Monoz told reporters. “That includes getting rid of drunk drivers.”
While persons drive drunk at all times of day around the year, the graveyard shift began the tradition during the 2017 holiday season.
More Than Alcohol Can Cause Impairment
The number of DUI arrests increased in the overnight hours when fewer troopers are on the road. The highway patrol has three squads of about seven troopers during daylight hours, but only two work at night. Due to vacation, sick days and mandatory training, the graveyard shift is practically never fully manned.
Even with fewer troopers, the overnight staff take pride in stopping potentially fatal accidents. Each time a troopers makes a DUI arrest, they write their badge number and date on an ornament to hang on the tree. The Christmas tree is on display at the Highway Patrol headquarters at 4615 West Sunset Road.
In 2017, troopers placed around 160 ornaments from the tree. The troopers have arrested over 1000 drunk or impaired vehicle operators this year and are expecting more arrests in December.
Nicholas Wooldridge, a Las Vegas defense attorney, points out there is more than just alcohol that can impair drivers. “Impairment doesn’t just come from consuming alcohol, it can come from illegal narcotics, prescription pills and pot,” Wooldridge said.
Wooldridge encourages people to use taxis or ride-share services instead of facing a DUI felony along with a car towing payment.
“The number of DUI arrested has dropped with the increased availability like Uber and Lyft,” Wooldridge added. “The ride share companies have stepped up big in this town.”
How To Be Wary Of Impaired People On The Highways
Wooldridge offers several times on how drivers can remain wary of persons impaired on area roadways.
- Make sure intersections are clear,
- Don’t drive in the left lane on the highway, and
- Call 911 or Star-NHP if you spot a possible impaired driver
Monoz said they’ll continue adding ornaments to the tree until the end of January, and the troopers plan to bring the tree back next holiday season.