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Police say stay safe, don’t drink, drive

Have fun but ring in the new year responsibly

POSTED: December 29, 2013 11:51 p.m.

Many people will celebrate New Year’s Eve with parties and cocktails while watching the ball drop. This often leads to high numbers of DUIs and traffic accidents as people — some sober, some not — head home from holiday festivities.

When it comes to drinking and driving, Gainesville Police Department Cpl. Joe Britte said, “Just don’t. It’s real simple: Drinking and driving don’t mix, and that’s the bottom line.”

If you plan on drinking alcoholic beverages, be responsible and plan ahead, whether with a designated driver, a taxi service or arrangements to stay overnight with someone.

“I wouldn’t even take that chance, and try to say, ‘Well, I’ve reached that point,’ because you really don’t know. What I would do is go ahead and make plans with your friends. Say, ‘Hey look, I plan on drinking tonight — who is not drinking?’ And the person who raises their hand would be the (designated driver) for the night,” said Britte.

“Not only (would he or she) provide a designated driver, but also the safety of that individual ... keeping an eye on them and making sure they’re not totally making a fool out of themselves and saying when it’s time to go home, it’s time to go home. Put them in the car and take them home safely and make sure they reach home safely,” he added.

For sober drivers, the best course is to be extra cautious and aware of others while on the road.

“As far as safety, always fasten your seat belts, slow down, and put your cellphones up — don’t talk, don’t text,” said Trooper First Class Jonathan Munger of the Georgia State Patrol.

Drivers should also be on the lookout for aggressive and reckless driving.

“If you see someone failing to maintain their lane or aggressively driving, it certainly won’t bother to call 911 (or nonemergency *GSP for Georgia State Patrol) and report the reckless driving,” added Munger.

Reporting potentially impaired drivers can help officers locate and assess possible DUI situations.

“If you’re driving down the road and you notice a vehicle with lights out or swerving on the road, maintain a safe distance from the vehicle and report it as quickly as possible to 911 or a nonemergency number (770-534-5251 for the Gainesville Police Department),” Britte said.

Provide the vehicle make, model, color, tag number and occupants in the vehicle, if possible.

“Report what road that you’re on and remain on the line with dispatch, and they will send an officer to that location,” he said.

“Reporting it is probably the best thing that you can do ... you’re not only saving your life, but probably more than likely saving the lives of others in the process,” Britte added.

Law enforcement will also be out in force during the holiday period, with patrols beginning at 6 p.m. on Tuesday and lasting through midnight on Wednesday.

“We’ll have everybody out on New Year’s Eve ... full force. We’ll be patrolling the highways locally here in Hall County, and there’ll be other troopers statewide as well as local law enforcement agencies statewide that will be working throughout the night,” said Munger.

Locally, BPI-Safe Rides is an organization helping to prevent drunken drivers from getting on the road.

Vivienne Speer, executive director, said one of the main reasons people get behind the wheel while impaired is the reluctance to leave their vehicle behind.

“The option we offer is we make sure you get home with your car. Ninety-nine percent of the problem with people that have too much to drink ... they don’t want to leave their car. We have volunteers who will drive them in their car to their house, no questions asked,” she said.

The free ride program is offered to Hall County residents. A team of volunteers will transport individuals and their insured vehicles from any location in the county to their residences.

On New Year’s Eve, the service will be available from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m., and rides can be requested at 770-533-1103.

Additionally, the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety created a smartphone app, Drive Sober, Georgia, that provides a listing of free sober rides and available taxi services for certain cities, including Gainesville. The app is free to download for Apple and Android devices.

Harris Blackwood, Governor’s Office of Highway Safety director and a Gainesville resident, said the app has been well-received and is easy to use.

“If someone will take the initiative to download the app and have it there, you know, it’s pretty easy to do. Once you choose your city, you tap that number and it dials it for you. I always say, if one person downloads the app and uses it, that’s great. That’s one person that’s not going to be endangering their life and the lives of others,” he added.

Included on the app’s listing was Tow-to-Go, a free ride service provided by AAA. An individual, one passenger and one vehicle can receive a local ride within a 10-mile radius to a safe location. Call 855-2-TOW-2-GO or 855-286-9246.


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