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NHP taking a creative approach to the safety threat of drunk driving during the holidays

Drunk driving is a threat to your safety on the roads all year, even more so during the holidays. This year, troopers with the Nevada Highway Patrol are doing something different to illustrate the problem. (KSNV)

Drunk driving is a threat to your safety on the roads all year, even more so during the holidays.

This year, troopers with the Nevada Highway Patrol are doing something different to illustrate the problem.

Trooper Travis Smaka says it started with a simple traffic stop. A driver on the 215 was pulled over for speeding and failing to use a traffic signal. However, in the front seat, there was a six-pack of beer with two bottles missing, indicating a possibly-impaired driver.

This month, NHP will be documenting DUI arrests in an unusual way.

It's called the "Life Saving Tree." For every impaired driver picked up on the graveyard shift, another ornament goes up, with the trooper's badge number and date listed.

"Potentially every bulb up there is a life saved," said NHP Lt. Anthony Munoz.

Lt. Munoz says it's all about preventing accidents and saving lives.

"Every drunk that's taken off the road, or impaired driver, whether it's alcohol or controlled substance, that's taken off the road that's putting everybody else in danger, it's not going to happen that night because we intervened," said Munoz.

According to NHP statistics, the numbers are headed in the right direction. Last year at this time, 40 people had died in Clark County in alcohol-related accidents. This year, that number is 32. On Tuesday night, another DUI-related crash happened in the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department's jurisdiction at Decatur and Edna.

"When we arrest a person for driving under the influence, it doesn't mean they're a bad person at all, they just made a bad choice that night," said Munoz.

Troopers understand this is Las Vegas and people are having fun here 24 hours a day, but the very best traffic stops, they say, are the ones with a designated driver behind the wheel.

"That trumps every bulb we have up there," said Munoz.

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