Programs will help party-goers avoid DUIs on New Year’s
December 28, 2007
As Parkites and visitors make plans for New Year’s Eve, they might also want to consider how they will get home after the party is over. A little research could prevent starting the new year off with a costly traffic ticket, or a tragic accident.
Each year several local agencies team up to help lessen the burden of partygoers trying to get around on New Year’s, and their efforts seem to be paying off. According to Park City Police Captain Phil Kirk, instances of driving under the influence of alcohol on New Year’s Eve have decreased over the years.
"Each year it continues to get better," Kirk said. "We’ve found over the last few years that the numbers have been going down."
Kirk says the police continue to make the same number of traffic stops, but find fewer impaired drivers. However, enforcement will still be increased this New Year’s.
While the Park City Police Department does not have the funds to set up specific checkpoints, this year they have received money for extra officers, who will focus exclusively on DUI-related offenses.
"The state has some DUI enforcement funds that they distribute throughout the state," Kirk said. "We got some of those funds."
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Kirk says that DUI-related arrests only average one to two per night, and he expects the same numbers even for New Year’s. In fact, according to Kirk, DUI offenses are increasing on holidays when they aren’t expected. At other times of the year when people don’t plan to drink much, they do not make necessary arrangements to designate a driver or find alternative transportation.
A number of programs are available in Park City to lessen the burden of getting around on New Years.
Park City transit will run extra busses to alleviate the increased demand. The last bus to The Canyons and Kimball Junction will leave the transit center at 10:10 p.m. But the city-wide bus, which combines the blue, red and green lines to services the Prospector, Park Meadows and Thanes areas, will run until 2 a.m. The city-wide bus runs every half hour on the half hour. Riders can catch this bus at the Old Town transit center or along Main Street.
Taxis Against Drunk Driving (T.A.D.D.), a local non-profit organization, offers free rides back to your car the following day if you take one of their taxis the night before. This program is available only through Advanced Transportation, but on any night of the year.
"The way the program works is that we suggest intoxicated customers use our service to get home safely and we provide them with a free ride back to their car the following morning," Bill Pierret, vice president of operations at Advanced Transportation.
Pierret says he has received feedback from local law enforcement officials who say their program has helped to reduce drunk driving. The number for Advanced Transportation is (866) 647-3999.
AAA of Utah offers a program called "Tipsy Tow," where from 6 p.m. on New Year’s Eve to 6 a.m. New Year’s Day they will provide anyone who is intoxicated, both AAA members and non-members, with a free tow and ride home. If the tow truck fits extra passengers, they are welcome to ride along, too.
"The thing about it is, people are hesitant to call cabs because they don’t want to have to deal with their cars the next day," said Rolayne Fairclough, AAA spokesperson.
This program requires no extra planning to return to your car, since your car comes with you. People should call (800) AAA-HELP (222-4357) and ask for a Tipsy Tow when they are ready to return home. AAA offers this program on seven holidays throughout the year, including Super Bowl Sunday.
Kirk also says overnight parking enforcement in the downtown area will be more lax on New Year’s. If designated drivers have more to drink than they anticipated and cannot drive home, they may inform the dispatch office that their car is being left in an area that restricts overnight parking.
"[It’s] not the preferable route. We’d rather you designate a driver. But if you have more than anticipated, we’d rather have them do that than try to drive," Kirk said.
Driving under the influence can be both dangerous and expensive. The recommended bail schedule fee is $1,332 but can be increased at the recommendation of the prosecution. DUIs can also include fees for towing, impound, legal help, and mandatory alcohol classes.
Officers will be making stops for traffic violations on New Year’s and checking for driving impairment. According to Sergeant Bill Morris of the Park City Police Department, officers first look for the smell of alcohol, then run field sobriety tests, such as the horizontal gaze nystagmus test in which suspected drunk drivers must follow a pen back and forth with their eyes. If officers suspect impairment, drivers can be given a Portable Breathalyzer Test (PBT). If the test reads over .08 percent Blood Alcohol Content, drivers are taken to the police station where they are given a more accurate test on the station’s Intoxilyzer, a test which is admissible in court.
DUIs in Summit County have declined since 1999, when there were 483 DUI arrests compared to 270 in 2003.