Volume 8, Number 41 - January 1, 2009
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Holiday brings increased DUI enforcement
No modern American holiday has institutionalized alcohol consumption more than New Year’s Eve.
The holiday is the single busiest day for liquor store sales nationwide. And all that revelry has its price.
A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) study found four of 10 automobile fatalities during the last two weeks of December were alcohol related.
“Sadly, the death toll from drunk-driving crashes is higher between Christmas and New Year’s than any other time,” NHTSA Acting Administrator David Kelly said.
The peak of drunk driving activity usually falls on New Year’s Eve.
“It’s pretty predictable every year,” says Wyoming Highway Patrolman Lt. Shawn Dickerson.
“They keep up busy all night long.”
This year the Wyoming Highway Patrol (WHP) and the Sublette County Sheriff ’s Department (SCSD) plan to put extra pressure on drunk drivers. As the evening wears on, the WHP will concentrate on intoxicated drivers. That means more patrol cars with some officers looking specifically for drunk drivers.
But the WHP isn’t stopping with New Year’s Eve.
Dickerson said his agency’s vigilance will carry on all weekend and the Sheriff’s department has the same plan.
“We will have a full compliment throughout the weekend,” said Capt. Mike Peterson. “It’s a long weekend and there’s a lot of people out. We want to get them there in one piece.”
Peterson added that with icy road conditions, the possibility for disaster is even greater.
“I don’t know if you even have a factor you can multiply it by when you take an impaired driver and put him on a slick surface,” he said.
Dickerson said the safest way to avoid an accident or a ticket is to completely “abstain from drinking;” in other words, don’t have a “couple drinks” and then drive.
He also warned against encouraging designated drivers to have a couple drinks.
“The designated drivers are frequently well-intentioned but they are frequently encouraged to take a drink and join the party,” Dickerson said. “And that creates a flaw in the system.”
He said the best advice is go to a party intending to stay the night.
“By all means, go out and have a good time,” he said. “Just don’t drink and drive.”
A first conviction of DUI is punishable by up to six months in jail and a $750 fine. It also carries a 90-day driver license suspension and mandatory substance abuse assessment at the driver’s expense.
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