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Cops have New Year’s covered

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

Audie Wheeler is someone that a drunken New Year’s reveler would be happy to meet.

Dave Edmunds is not.

Wheeler directs the operations for Taxis Against Drunk Driving, a not-for-profit providing an incentive for drunk people not to drive. Edmunds is the Summit County sheriff, whose deputies will be patrolling the roads on New Year’s Eve for drunken drivers.

On New Year’s, both the authorities and Wheeler’s drivers will be combating drunken drivers, trying to prevent a tragedy.

At Taxis Against Drunk Driving, sometimes called by its acronym, TADD, Wheeler says the organization during the last New Year’s served about 30 people.

Under the program, someone who is intoxicated pays for a taxi ride at night and, the next morning, a taxi provides a free ride to retrieve the car left the night before. The taxis will take people throughout Summit and Wasatch counties, along the Wasatch Front and further destinations if needed.

"I think we’ve saved the lives of several people. We’ve lowered the risk for anyone who is going to leave their house, 365 days a year," Wheeler says, claiming that people frequently drive drunk because they do not want to leave their car where it is parked.

The service can be reached at 647-3999 or toll free at 1 (866) 647-3999.

People who instead drive drunk could encounter lawmen from several agencies patrolling Summit County on New Year’s.

The Utah Highway Patrol, which typically assigns officers to S.R. 224 and S.R. 248 on the West Side, plans to have up to six troopers in the area, more than twice the number of a usual night.

Park City Police Department Lt. Phil Kirk says the department plans to assign two officers to traffic patrols and will have three additional officers and a sergeant on regular patrols, which usually include monitoring traffic.

He says the number of New Year’s drunken-driving arrests has fallen in recent years and he credits revelers for making transportation plans beforehand.

"People are taking the necessary precautions and not drinking and driving," Kirk says.

Edmunds says he expects five deputies will be on patrol on the West Side, two more than usual. He says the Sheriff’s Office lacks the funding to station more deputies locally on New Year’s.

"You do what you can. This year, we don’t have any monies for overtime," he says, adding, "It will be fine, more than fine."

Park City is known as a place to party on New Year’s, with the nightclubs on Main Street especially hopping. Scores of visitors are planning to be in the city and, each year, the city attracts lots of people from the Salt Lake Valley for New Year’s. Although there is not an organized public celebration, the nightclubs plan to have New Year’s events.

People caught driving drunk face big fines and, potentially, jail time if they are convicted.

Someone convicted of a first or second drunken-driving charge, which would be class B misdemeanors, could be charged $1,882 in fines and assessments and may be sentenced to jail for six months. Offenders can perform 48 hours of community service and complete an alcohol-awareness course to lighten the sentence.

First-time offenders usually are not sent to jail, though. Those caught a second time face 10 days in jail. A person’s driver license could be suspended on any drunken-driving charge.

The sheriff says the lawmen are not trying to ruin the New Year’s revelry.

"It’s OK to party. That’s fine. We just want people to party responsibly," Edmunds says.

Some taxi companies that operate in the Park City area include All Resort Express, 645-9388, Ace Cab Co., better known as 649-TAXI, 649-8294 and Powder for the People, 649-6648.


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