Regional law enforcement unites against drinking and driving

Published 12:36 am Thursday, August 25, 2016

NATCHEZ — One of the worst parts of the job of a law enforcement officer is knocking on a parent’s door to let them know their child is dead because of a person who was driving under the influence, Clayton Police Chief Bobby Madison said.

To help potentially avoid officers having to make that dreaded knock, Adams County Sheriff Travis Patten hosted Mississippi’s first hands across the border, impaired-driving campaign. The campaign brought together agencies from Concordia Parish all the way to Lawrence and Pike counties.

“We don’t want to have to deliver that knock,” Patten said. “We are getting together to present a unified message that if you drink, be responsible about it and don’t drive.”

Email newsletter signup

Madison said if a person in Clayton is considering driving after drinking, to call him first or send him a message on Facebook.

“I will jump out of bed and go drive someone home,” he said. “I hate to inform a parent their child or loved one has been killed in an accident. I hate having to put a (police) unit in front of a funeral progression because someone died in a wreck.”

It has been more than 19 years since Hailey Estes and a friend, Mindy Carlson of Edina, Minn., were killed at the intersection of Melrose-Montebello Parkway and Seargent S. Prentiss Drive. The light was green for her, and it was red for the fire truck being driven by a man who was three times above the legal driving limit on prescription drugs, said Hailey’s father Terry Estes.

Estes remembers getting that knock from a Natchez Police Department officer around midnight. Estes said he called for his wife. Paula, when he learned of the accident, so he could go to the hospital.

Fellow State Farm Agent Kevin Whittington was present and Estes said Whittington told he and his wife to sit down. The truck was going 56 miles per hour when it hit the car, and they were dead.

Estes said he appreciates officers for what they do, and he said he sympathizes with how difficult it must be to deliver the news of a death to parents.

“The hardest thing I have had to do was call Mindy’s parents and tell them what had happened,” he said. “They had so many questions I didn’t have an answer to.”

Twyla Jennings of the Mississippi Office of Highway Safety said stories such as the Estes’ help put faces to the statistics.

“With numbers, it’s easy for them to go in one ear and out the other,” she said. “But you have to remember for every number, that’s someone’s mother, daughter, father, sister, brother or son.”

In 2015, 677 lives were claimed by traffic crashes across Mississippi. In just August, 70 fatal crashes were reported in the state.

During last year’s impaired driving campaign, Mississippi Highway Patrol Troop M District 9, in which Natchez is located, had the most traffic fatalities at five through the two-week period.

The meeting also served a purpose of bringing law enforcement together to compare notes, Natchez alderman and retired police officer Billie Joe Frazier said.

“Communication is very important in law enforcement,” Frazier said. “It is very important you get together and interact — find out what the other agency is doing so you can get on the same page.”

With two mayors — Natchez’s Darryl Grennell and Ferriday’s Sherrie Jacobs — two justices — Adams County’s Charlie Vess and Wilkinson County’s Lee Dixon, and several police chiefs, sheriffs, officers and deputies present, Patten said the meeting was a success.

“It’s appropriate the first hands across the border meeting happened here in Natchez,” Patten said. “We want to be that beacon or light on the hill.”