Police prepare for New Year’s

Published 11:13 pm Tuesday, December 30, 2008

It’s New Year’s Eve.

You’re out at a party, and you have a couple drinks.

You think you’re OK to drive home, but you’re really not.

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New Year’s Eve night and New Year’s morning have some of the highest occurrences for drinking and driving and thereby drunk driving accidents.

According to data from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, “by the time our country finished ringing in the year 2004 (the last year for which data are available), 90 people had died in alcohol-related traffic crashes in the 12-hour span between 6:00 p.m. on New Year’s Eve and 5:59 a.m. the next morning. Four weeks later, on the same night of the week, the death toll dropped dramatically to 20.”

To help combat such accidents, the Suffolk Police Department is prepping for the night.

“We do a couple different things,” said Suffolk Police Department Captain Todd Rittenhouse. “First thing we do is we have enhanced patrols, more people working the streets.”

Having more officers on the ground will allow for more checkpoints around the city.

Rittenhouse said police officers will be stationed at randomly selected points throughout the city to screen anyone who comes through that part of town.

He added that every year Suffolk sees an increase in the number of drunk driving arrests made during the New Year’s holiday.

“Traditionally, our numbers are higher,” he said. “I think that you can attribute that to our increased patrols and increased emphasis on it, and certainly people are not going to comply as much as we would like (with drinking and driving laws).”

The Suffolk Police Department encourages people in the city to make sure they have a plan before attending their New Year’s events.

“Whether that’s to have a designated driver or staying wherever they are at (people should have a plan), but traditionally people tend to deviate from their plans.”

Another option for late-night partiers is AAA’s annual Tow-To-Go program.

Tow-To-Go is a free service offered by the association that sends local tow trucks to people who call and ask for help getting home. The service is not just for AAA members, but also for anyone who is incapable of driving back homes safely.

Drivers who need assistance getting home can call 1-800-AAA-HELP to get in contact with the towing companies. However, drivers should not plan to use this program as a free pass to drink the night away. There are limitations and guidelines to the program. For example, AAA will only tow regular sized cars, no sports utility vehicles or oversized trucks.

Also, the association will not tow vehicles from establishment to establishment.

Whatever party people do attend, Rittenhouse stressed the importance of having a plan in place before walking out the door.

“We encourage people to have a plan and to stick with that plan,” he said.

For more information on the Tow-to-Go program, visit the Web site online at www.aaa.com.