Police increase DUI patrols

Published 7:16 pm Wednesday, December 30, 2009

While everyone wants to celebrate the New Year with friends and family, the Suffolk police department is urging motorists to drive carefully on New Year’s Eve.

“We want people to enjoy the holiday, but we definitely want to discourage irresponsible behavior,” said Captain John Brooks of the Suffolk Police Department. “We have additional staff and resources in place for the holiday.”

The Virginia State Police also will be participating in stepped-up enforcement efforts around the state, according to Col. W. Steven Flaherty, state police superintendent.

“The only way to save lives on Virginia’s roads is by having every driver and passenger put safety first this holiday season by buckling up, avoiding distractions, sharing the road, obeying speed limits, and driving drug and alcohol free.”

The Suffolk police department responded to 10 vehicular accidents last New Year’s Eve and Day. Two of those accidents were alcohol related.

Brooks credits the low numbers to the department’s crackdown on DUIs and increased forces that discourage drivers from driving under the influence of alcohol.

Historically, however, New Year’s Eve is the most dangerous time to be on the road.

Research from the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration has consistently shown more people die in motor vehicle accidents that involve an alcohol-impaired driver on the weekends and at night.

While New Year’s Eve is does not fall on a weekend this year, it mimics one, since many people have the following day off.

In 2008, 58 percent of drivers and motorcycle riders who were killed in crashes that took place over the weekend and at night where alcohol-impaired.

The DMV reports that impaired teen drivers are at a far greater risk of being involved in a fatal crash than other drivers because of their limited experience behind the wheel and impaired judgment after having just one to two drinks.

“Underage drinking is always a problem, no matter what time of year,” Brooks said.

Anyone caught driving under the influence will be prosecuted, he assured.

“The code of Virginia on DUIs is pretty stiff,” Brooks said. “On a first-time offense, you will lose your license for a year, guaranteed. You can also find yourself in jail for a year, a $250 fine, plus you pay for drug counseling, alcohol counseling. That can amount to $1,500.”

Driving intoxicated can also have long-lasting effects on your employment, insurance and family.

Considering all of the potential consequences — not to mention the inherent dangers — driving drunk could turn out to be one of the most expensive ways to celebrate the New Year.

Find a friend, family member, taxi or other public transportation to drive you home if you’ve had too much to drink, Brooks advises.