Law enforcement prepare for influx of New Year's drunk drivers
by Brian Anderson
Dec 30, 2013 | 3167 views |  0 comments | 38 38 recommendations | email to a friend | print
As residents celebrate the start of 2014 Tuesday, local and state law enforcement will be gearing up for a busy shift.

In anticipation of an influx of drunk drivers, police departments and other safety agencies will be out in full force, trying to prevent accidents on one of the most dangerous nights of the year to be on the road.

“Clearly there’s a bigger concentration of impaired drivers,” said Calhoun County Sheriff Larry Amerson about New Year’s Eve traffic. “But there’s also a lot of awareness that law enforcement will be out looking for that, so the smart people will make other arrangements.”

Amerson said deputies will be on special lookout throughout the county for tell-tale signs of drunk drivers, and said typically about 2 a.m. is when things start to get busy on the roads.

But despite its reputation as the most dangerous night to travel, New Year’s Day actually ranked behind Labor Day, Memorial Day, Thanksgiving and Independence Day in terms of fatal accidents in the United States in 2012, according to the National Safety Council. Last year an estimated 348 fatal accidents took place in the United States on New Year’s Day, and almost half of them involved alcohol, according to the council.

The Alabama Department of Public Safety will also step up patrol Tuesday night in anticipation of dangerous conditions. Grants from the Alabama Department of Transportation and the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs helped fund extra enforcement for the week of Christmas and New Year’s Day, and State Troopers will set up sobriety checkpoints throughout the state, as well as closely monitor speeding, said Sgt. Steve Jarrett in a press release.

“It is one of the busiest and most exciting times of year, and that seasonal hustle and bustle is evident on the state’s roadways as many of us will travel more between now and New Year’s,” said Col. Hugh B. McCall, director of the Alabama Department of Public Safety, in a press release. “We all must make safety a priority no matter how rushed we feel.”

But in some places, New Year’s Eve isn’t quite as hectic a shift for law enforcement officers. Jacksonville police Chief Tommy Thompson said over the holidays, the city loses about 5,000 residents when Jacksonville State University is on break.

“It’s actually our quiet time,” said Thompson, who noted five officers will be working a late shift starting at 11 p.m. to be on the lookout for drunk drivers. “There are probably a higher percentage of drunk drivers, but there are less people in general.”

One factor that should help out on the roads is dry weather. The National Weather Service forecasts conditions to be clear Tuesday night, with temperatures dipping into the low 30s.

Staff writer Brian Anderson: 256-235-3546. On Twitter @BAnderson_Star.

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