Area Law Enforcement Agencies Are Cracking Down on Impaired Drivers in the Southeast Missouri Ozarks

Evan Crosby

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Drive Sober when visiting the Ozarks National Scenic Riverways or get pulled over.

Van Buren, Missouri - Local law enforcement agencies are teaming up with the Missouri State Highway Patrol and National Park Service Law Enforcement Rangers to help make the roads safer for residents and visitors in the Southeast Missouri Ozarks by keeping impaired drivers off the roads.

The Current River and Jacks Fork River - which make up the Ozarks National Scenic Riverways - are Missouri's most popular rivers. According to figures from the National Parks Service, around 1.2 million visitors visit the area each year to enjoy camping and floating (canoeing, kayaking, rafting, and tubing). In fact, weekends during the summer get can get quite crowded on these rivers with float trips that often turn into big parties with lots of drinking.

Unfortunately, sometimes people forget that they shouldn't drive after they've had too much to drink - or they don't care and think that they won't get caught. Either way, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is not only extremely dangerous, but it's also extremely illegal.

After several years of complaints about high alcohol usage on float trips and in campgrounds - especially on the Current River - a coalition of law enforcement and government agencies are increasing their visibility on area highways around the Ozarks National Scenic Riverways with more saturation patrols and sobriety checkpoints.

This coalition to stamp out drunk driving in the Southeast Missouri Ozarks operates a mobile unit that can test the blood alcohol content of suspected DUI offenders. The mobile unit enables law enforcement partners to easily conduct sobriety checkpoints "anywhere and anytime."

You might be wondering, "don't they (law enforcement) need a warrant before a blood sample can be obtained from a suspect?" The answer is yes - which is why local judges are staying on call overnight and on weekends so that they can issue warrants giving officers permission to conduct onsite blood alchohol tests of suspected DUI offenders.

The crackdown on impaired driving isn't just happening on area highways. Visitors traveling within the Ozarks National Scenic Riverways - like campgrounds and public access areas - can be stopped by National Park Service Law Enforcement Rangers if they are suspected of driving under the influence of a controlled subtance. That means if you are driving through a campground you still need to be sober. Furthermore, you can't have any open containers of alcohol in your vehicle.

Visitors to the region are noticing the increased visibility of law enforcement on area highways and witithin the Ozarks National Scenic Riverways. They are spreading the word to others on social media and sites like TripAdvisor.

The National Parks Service and communities throughout the Southeast Missouri Ozarks want visitors to come and enjoy their beautiful rivers and parks. However, they want visititors to be safe - especially when driving on area roads and highways.

Luckily, you don't have to drink and drive when you visit the Ozarks National Scenic Riverways. For example, most canoe outfitters offer shuttle services that will pick you up from nearby campgrounds and lodging - and then drop you back off after your float trip. It can be worth paying extra for a shuttile if it keeps you from getting a DUI. Even some of the local bars around Van Buren offer free shuttle services for visitors in town.

The key to enjoying a fun visit to the Southeast Missouri Ozarks is to make sure that you aren't putting yourself and others in danger by driving under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance.

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