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Lawmen on lookout for impaired drivers

While digging out noisemakers and champagne flutes for New Year’s Eve celebrations, take a minute to plan the end of your night, too. Designate a sober driver or make plans ahead of time to take a taxi home. That one minute of planning could ensure that you make it home to see the rest of 2015.
For many, New Year’s Eve involves consuming alcohol at parties. So it comes as no surprise that there’s a spike in drunk driving crashes at the end of the year.
“There are so many options to make sure you get home safely at the end of the night,” said Harris Blackwood, director for the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety. “Volunteer to be your group’s sober ride this year, or download the Drive Sober, Georgia app with a list of sober ride options near you, or arrange to stay the night where you’re ringing in the New Year.”
With so many options, and AAA’s Tow To Go program, available Christmas Eve through New Year’s Day, there really is no excuse to drive drunk. Law enforcement officers will continue to participate in the statewide Operation Zero Tolerance campaign that lasts through Jan. 1. During this high-visibility enforcement period, law enforcement agencies will be cracking down on impaired driving.
Last year during the holiday period (Nov. 20 – Dec. 31), drunk drivers caused 1,143 traffic collisions in Georgia. There were 684 injuries reported in those crashes, and 18 people lost their lives.
“Last year during the holidays, we lost 18 people on Georgia roads to impaired drivers,” Blackwood said. “Those 18 people could still be here today, celebrating the new year with their loved ones, if those drivers had simply called a cab or designated a sober driver at the beginning of the night. These incidents are avoidable, and the solutions are simple. Don’t drink and drive.”
Too many drunk drivers aren’t learning the lesson the first time: In 2012, more than half (53 percent) of the drunk drivers in fatal crashes had at least one previous DUI conviction on their record.
“The risks just aren’t worth it,” Blackwood said. “You could find yourself in the back of a police car headed to jail, or worse—you could kill someone or end up seriously injured or dead yourself. A DUI will also cost you around $10,000.”
Impaired drivers will not only face jail time. A DUI could cost them the loss of their driver’s license, higher insurance rates, and dozens of other unanticipated expenses ranging from attorney fees, court costs, car towing and repairs, and lost wages due to time off from work.
GOHS and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration offer the following tips to keep your celebrations safe and happy:
• Before you attend a party, make a plan to get home safely. If you decide to drink, designate a sober driver ahead of time and leave your keys at home, or program the phone number of a friend or local taxi service into your phone.
• Before you take your first sip of alcohol, have your plan in place. If you wait until you’re too impaired to drive, you’re more likely to make an impaired decision. Alcohol affects your judgment, so you might think you’re “OK to drive” when you’re not.
• If you have been drinking, there’s always another way to get home safely. You can call a taxi, phone a sober friend or family member, use public transportation or find a sober ride service or cab company by using the Drive Sober, Georgia app. Download it before your night begins so you’ll have it ready when you need it.
• If someone you know is drinking, do not let that person get behind the wheel. They’ll thank you for it.
• Call the police or dial *GSP if you see someone driving drunk. It is your business. Getting drunk drivers off the roads saves lives.

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