While the holiday season means good times, food and family, often with a glass of holiday cheer, they can be tragic when partiers mix drinking and automobiles.
Local law enforcement agencies are looking to crack down on those who endanger other motorists by taking to the roads while under the influence.
“We’re going to be stepping up patrols like we do every holiday season,” Colquitt County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Randy Stephens said. “The GSP (Georgia State Patrol) is going to be out in force, and I’m sure the Moultrie police will be out in force.”
The agency will have extra officers on patrol during the holidays to deal with the extra volume of calls for service as well as stopping drivers they suspect are impaired.
Statewide, Operation Zero Tolerance will clamp down, with all law enforcement agencies looking out to pull over impaired drivers.
Last year between Nov. 20 and Dec. 31 there were 1,110 alcohol-related crashes in the state, up from 997 in 2011 and 836 in 2010, according to the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety. The state recorded 20 deaths and 679 injuries attributed to drunk drivers during the 2012 holiday season.
“We want people to have a good time,” Stephens said. “We also want them to use a little common sense. If you feel you’ve had too much, stay there or call a friend.
“We’ve lost too many people over the years where people were thinking they have only had a few.”
Having a designated driver is the best way to make sure that partygoers and others on the roadways make it home safely, officials said.
Drivers who can should avoid being on the road during the heavy traffic of the holiday season, as well as avoid being on the road at the same time as potentially impaired drivers.
Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are normally the biggest in terms of traffic volume, Stephens said, with New Years Eve being the night when people ring in the new year with revelry.
“If you do not have to be out on the roads, don’t,” he recommended.
Law enforcement will have no sympathy for those found to be driving after imbibing. Stephens recalled an accident about five years ago where a father was driving around with his children after drinking. A fatal crash on Tallokas Road killed him and all of the kids.
“I’ve been doing this job going on 20 years, and I’ve seen some horrific (crashes),” he said. “Some of them, especially some of the worst ones, involved alcohol.”
The South Georgia Chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving supports efforts to get drunk impaired drivers off the road, chapter leader Gary Robinson said.
Before heading out on New Year’s Eve, people should take time to think of how they will get home safely if drinking alcohol is part of their plans, he said.
“If they’re going to go to a party or to a club and have a few, that’s fine, just have a designated driver,” he said. “We want to urge law enforcement to keep a lookout for drunk drivers, speeders, people not wearing seat belts. I know they’re working day and night to make our streets safe.”