Law enforcement watching for drunk drivers over holiday
by ELSIE HODNETT
Talladega Police Lt. Alan Kelly uses a portable breath tester, which helps officers identify impaired drivers.
As the New Year approaches, local law enforcement agencies urge people to celebrate safely and responsibly.

“We plan to hold driver’s license/sobriety checkpoints at various locations throughout the city all day and night New Year’s Eve,” said Pell City Police Chief Greg Turley. “We will move the checkpoints around to hit as many areas of town as we can.”

Turley said residents should enjoy the holidays, but do so safely and responsibly.

“Don’t drink and drive at all,” he said. “Use a designated driver or a taxi. Or stay at home and celebrate.”

Turley said residents should also follow safety procedures when using fireworks.

“Do not discharge weapons instead of fireworks,” he said.

Turley said individuals can report sightings of inebriated or impaired drivers by calling St. Clair County Central Dispatch at 205-884-3333.

“We will have continued holiday staffing and patrol efforts through New Year’s Day,” said Sylacauga Police Chief Chris Carden. “That includes increased patrols and physical appearance in the community.”

Carden said the Sylacauga Police Department will continue its regular safety checkpoint policy.

“We hold random safety checkpoints at random locations looking for different safety violations such as seatbelt or equipment violations,” he said. “Those safety checkpoints are also a good opportunity to identify impaired drivers.”

Carden said residents should also remember that discharging a firearm within city limits is illegal and definitely not a good way to ring in the New Year.

The Talladega Police Department is launching a special “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” crackdown to stop impaired drivers and save lives on the roadway this holiday season.

“Lots of folks will be out during this busy holiday season, enjoying themselves and the holiday festivities, and we want everyone to be safe on our roadways,” said Talladega Police Lt. Alan Kelly. “That’s why we will be stepping up enforcement to catch and arrest impaired drivers. Please be forewarned. If you are caught drinking and driving impaired, you will be arrested. No warnings. No excuses.”

Kelly said the enforcement period began Dec. 12 and will continue through Jan. 1.

He said during 2010, more than 10,000 people were killed nationwide in motor vehicle crashes involving an impaired driver. The holiday season is a particularly dangerous time. During December 2010, 30 percent of all fatalities in motor vehicle traffic crashes involved alcohol-impaired drivers. Data also shows that among those alcohol-impaired-driving fatalities, 71 percent occurred when drivers had nearly twice the legal limit blood alcohol concentration of .15 grams per deciliter or higher.

“No one ever thinks that their holiday celebration will end in jail, or worse, in a hospital or the morgue,” Kelly said. “But for those who include alcohol in their celebrations and then get behind the wheel, this is often the case.”

Kelly said it is illegal in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico to drive with a BAC of .08 or higher. Violators face jail time, loss of drivers license, and steep financial consequences such as higher insurance rates, attorney fees, court costs, lost time at work, and the potential loss of job.

Kelly said three simple steps people can take to stay safe and out of trouble include:

• Plan ahead. If you will be drinking, do not plan on driving. Designate a sober driver or find another safe way home. Even one too many drinks increases the risk of a crash while driving a motor vehicle.

• If you are impaired, find another way home. Use a taxi, call a sober friend, family member or use public transportation.

• Be responsible. If someone you know is drinking, do not let them get behind the wheel. If you see an impaired driver on the road, contact law enforcement. Your actions may save someone’s life, and inaction could cost a life.

“We want everyone to enjoy their holidays, but we also want our roadways to be safe,” he said. “We will be out in force to help save lives, and we are not going to tolerate impaired driving. So remember, ‘Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over.’ We will be watching.”

The State of Alabama Integrated State Law Enforcement Task Force encourages everyone to take special care celebrating at home, traveling the state’s roadways or enjoying time outdoors. The holiday travel period lasts through midnight Jan. 2.

Officers from state-level law enforcement agencies will work together to create a highly visible enforcement presence. The public should expect officers, even in unmarked vehicles, to make enforcement stops.

Alabama’s Integrated State Law Enforcement Task Force reminds the public to:

• Avoid driving or boating while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

• Restrict access and closely monitor teens to prevent underage use of alcoholic beverages.

• Pay attention to speed limits and driving conditions on the road, and obey boating laws on the water.

• Use seatbelts and child restraints in motor vehicles—no matter how short your drive is.

• Use a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket when in boats, particularly if you will be alone. Not only will this keep you afloat, but it also will offer protection against hypothermia.

• Boaters or hunters who plan to use a boat should leave a float plan that includes a description of your boat, where you plan to launch from, where you plan to go and what time to expect you back.

• Pedestrians should be extremely cautious when walking, jogging or running near roadways, especially when it is dark. Increase visibility at night by carrying a flashlight when walking and by wearing reflective clothing to help highlight body movements. Always stop and look left, right and left again before crossing a roadway.

Contact Elsie Hodnett at ehodnett@dailyhome.com.

© 2012