Lawmen prepare for New Year’s revelry
Anne Cameron is not the person who drunken New Year’s revelers want to meet after they sober up.
A prosecutor with the Summit County Attorney’s Office, Cameron is ready to bring charges against people who drink and drive and New Year’s is notorious in America for such crimes.
Cameron sees drunken-driving prosecutions as "extremely important" and she said people who drink and drive are endangering others.
"People who are driving under the influence of alcohol put the entire community at risk," she said. "You’ve got yourself a deadly weapon . . . A vehicle can be a deadly weapon."
Cameron’s office will get the paperwork from the law-enforcement agencies that are patrolling the area on Saturday night, including the Park City Police Department and the Summit County Sheriff’s Office.
Both of the agencies plan to enforce the drunken-driving laws on New Year’s.
Dave Booth, the chief deputy with the Sheriff’s Office, said his department plans to have a regular staff, including a K-9 unit, on patrol as well as state-funded shifts looking for drunken drivers. Two additional lawmen will be assigned to combating drunken driving and finding others violating alcohol laws, like underage drinking.
"Every year, it’s a very busy night for law enforcement," Booth said, predicting that the office will receive lots of calls about parties from between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. Most of the calls come from people on the West Side of Summit County, where Park City and Kimball Junction are located.
He said the Sheriff’s Office has seen fewer New Year’s drunken-driving incidents in recent years, saying that people are aware of the dangers.
"Every year it gets better. I think people, as time goes on, become a little more educated," Booth said.
A first or second drunken-driving conviction is a class B misdemeanor. Such crimes are punishable by six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. Lots of people convicted of drunken driving must also take an alcohol-awareness class. Someone convicted of drunken driving for a third time in 10 years faces a third-degree felony, punishable by zero to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
The charges could be more serious if someone is injured in a drunken-driving accident, Cameron said.
At the Police Department, officers planned an anti-drunken driving operation on Friday night and on Saturday the police planned to be "more than fully staffed," Lt. Phil Kirk said.
"We certainly see a higher percentage of impaired drivers around the holidays," Kirk said.
He said officers will be conducting foot patrols on Main Street as well but added that there have been fewer fights on the street in recent years than in the past. In past years, the police have frequently arrested people on New Year’s on charges like disorderly conduct and intoxication.
Revelers have some options for getting home if they are too drunk to drive, including the fleet of taxis expected in the Main Street core on New Year’s.
Audie Wheeler, part owner of Advanced Transportation, touts his separate non-profit organization, Taxis Against Drunk Driving, which he refers to by its acronym, TADD.
He said TADD, which operates all year, charges people for a taxi drive home if they are impaired but then provides a free ride back to their car the next morning.
Wheeler said about 10 TADD drivers will be working on New Year’s and other taxi companies are involved.
"Our goal is to have the road free of drunken drivers," Wheeler said, acknowledging that the hope is unrealistic.
Wheeler sees the service as "integral" and "vital" to combating drunken driving. Plus, he said, working on New Year’s usually brings good tips for drivers.
"It’s a lot of fun," he said. "It’s like working during Sundance."
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Joe Biden has appeared in Park City on fundraising trips a handful of times. But before that, he frequently came to town for the Senators’ Ski Cup, an annual benefit for Primary Children’s Medical Center.