[Nameplate] Partly Cloudy ~ 44°F  
Wind Advisory
Monday, Nov. 24, 2014

New Year's Eve celebrations: Plan ahead to get home safe

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Drinking and driving can result in arrests or vehicle crashes

SIKESTON -- Want to make it home safely after a New Year's party? Plan ahead.

There are many options for those who plan to use alcohol while ringing in the new year, according to Lt. John Hotz, public information officer for the Missouri State Highway Patrol's General Headquarters in Jefferson City.

"They can stay at that house, call a taxi cab, designate a sober driver who is going to get them home -- any number of things," Hotz said. "Where we find problems is where people start drinking and then try to make that decision.

Don't wait until you have already started drinking to make that decision."

As thoughts of personal safety and the safety of others is not enough to keep everyone who has been drinking from getting behind the wheel, there is always the other deterrent: the possibility of being arrested for driving while intoxicated.

Last year, 132 people were arrested for driving while intoxicated during the New Year holiday period, according to Hotz.

Hotz said the Patrol is planning "saturations" in areas that "historically have had higher numbers of alcohol-related crashes or arrests." Saturation is "additional troopers focusing their enforcement efforts in a particular area," he explained.

"We will have all available troopers on the roadway enforcing traffic laws and assisting motorists who may be having difficulty," Hotz said. "We'll be focusing on moving violations and alcohol-related offenses -- drinking and driving."

With New Year's Eve falling on a Monday, the Patrol's additional efforts began Friday "and will encompass the entire holiday weekend," he said.

Hotz said the Patrol is expecting additional traffic over the holiday weekend but short-range traffic -- people going back and forth to parties -- instead of the long-range traffic seen during many of the other holidays.

"Last year, for the New Year holiday period we had 1,119 traffic crashes, there were eight people killed and 454 people injured," Hotz said.

With a long holiday weekend, keeping those statistics down this year is sure to be a challenge. "This year the counting period is from Dec. 28 at 6 p.m. through Jan. 1 at 11:59 p.m.," Hotz said.

It is possible to keep those numbers down, however, if every driver does their part.

"We see the same causes of crashes time and time again: speed, inattention and alcohol," Hotz said.

Even those who do not plan to celebrate the beginning of a new year with alcohol should be extra careful while traveling over the next couple of days. Hotz encouraged drivers to follow all traffic rules and make sure occupants of their vehicle are properly restrained.

"The best defense is either a seat belt or an approved child restraint device, depending on the age of the passenger," Hotz said.

The patrol also encourages motorists to contact them if faced with a traffic emergency. Calling 1-800-525-5555 or *55 on a cellular phone will ring into the nearest Highway Patrol headquarters. Motorists should use this number if their vehicle becomes disabled or they are involved in or witness a traffic crash or crime.

They may also use the emergency number if they observe an erratic driver or pass a stranded motorist in need of assistance.

SIKESTON -- Motorists will be taking their chances if they get behind the wheel after drinking in Sikeston.

Sikeston Department of Public Safety Director Drew Juden said he preferred to not "tip his hand" by discussing what measures DPS may or may not be taking over the New Year's holiday.

He did offer advice, however.

"Do all the sensible things: buckle up, drive safely and if you're going to drink, use a designated driver," Juden said