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Drivers, beware: Police will be out in force tonight
Checkpoints are planned on many area roads on New Year's Eve
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What: Service takes both individual and vehicle to their home
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2012 is less than 24 hours away.

For some, the New Year will be rung in by watching peaches, apples or possums drop from the sky.

For others, it will be celebrated with a cold one or a glass of champagne in hand.

Keeping those folks from behind the wheel is the goal of law enforcement statewide.

"We encourage everyone to have a good time, but designate a sober driver," said Sgt. Kiley Sargent, spokesman for the Hall County Sheriff's Office. "I worked traffic for 15 years and I've seen my share of traffic fatalities from intoxicated driving. It's so deadly."

There have been 361 arrests for driving under the influence in Hall County this year, Sargent said.

To pre-empt as many traffic incidents as possible, both Gainesville police and Hall County deputies will set up safety checkpoints tonight.

"I talked with the supervisor at the traffic unit and historically, they do have a pretty busy weekend ahead of them," Sargent said. "They have road checks planned throughout the county. We'd rather not say exactly where because we want the public to know we're out there and we could be anywhere."

Kevin Holbrook, public information officer for the Gainesville Police Department, said Gainesville's locations will be in areas with high crime, traffic complaints and trends of traffic accidents.

Drivers must have their licenses, vehicle registration and proof of insurance ready to present if they encounter such a checkpoint, Holbrook said.

He said many people don't carry proof of insurance anymore, as it comes up with the vehicle registration. However, drivers should continue to have it on hand, as it takes time for the registration to bring that data up.

Stopping intoxicated drivers is the No. 1 priority for the checkpoints, but there are other things police look for.

"Child restraint is a frequent charge that we see come out of safety checkpoints," Holbrook said. "We also find subjects wanted on warrants throughout Hall County as well as throughout Georgia, and sometimes drugs and narcotics."

When suspected drunk drivers are pulled over, they will face a sobriety test to determine whether they are safe to drive, Sargent said.

"If they're over the limit they'll be charged with DUI," he said. "If they're borderline, if they feel like they can pull them off the side of the road and call, then we'll do that. We'd rather call somebody to come and get them, but if they're over the limit, it's zero tolerance in Hall County."

And for those drivers whose passengers decide to have a "road beer" on the way to the party?

"As the driver of the vehicle, you're responsible for the vehicle," Holbrook said. "Depending on the circumstances, you could possibly be charged in that situation. Many times as far as open containers with multiple subjects in the vehicle, it is hard to pinpoint exactly which subject is responsible for that, so therefore many individuals could be held responsible."

There are other options for those who find themselves drinking a little too much bubbly after the ball drops.

The Drive Sober GA smartphone app, part of the state's Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign, debuted earlier this week. It's already been downloaded almost 1,000 times, according to a news release from the Governor's Office of Highway Safety.

"We know that people are attached to their cell phones these days," Harris Blackwood, office director, said in the news release. "We made it as easy as possible by putting a free sober ride in the palm of their hands."

Georgia experienced an 11 percent reduction in impaired driving fatalities in 2010, but drunk driving is still a problem, according to the news release. The app allows people to have mobile access to organizations providing free rides home

"That's a very useful tool. If a person's ever faced with the fact of getting behind the wheel while intoxicated, you can literally get a free ride home," Sargent said.

Along with calling a taxi, BPI-Safe Rides in Gainesville will take both impaired drivers and their vehicles home, executive director Vivienne Long-Speer said.

She said priority of pickups goes to patrons needing transport from restaurants and other establishments.

"The server may call us and say, ‘We have someone we think needs your services.' They let the person know, ‘We can get you a ride home with your car if you're interested,'" Long-Speer said.

The team of two volunteers arrives within the hour, confirms the person needs transport and escorts them to their residence in their own vehicle. The volunteers are followed by a "chase vehicle" that then takes them back to home base.

"We don't take them from one party or one establishment to another, we take them from where they're drinking to where they live," Long-Speer said. "People who've had too much to drink or drugs, they're going to try to get home anyway. That's one of the biggest barriers to people being responsible, is leaving the car behind."

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