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Road safety top priority for law New Year’s Eve

Nonprofit provides free rides home
By: Jenifer Gee Journal Staff Writer
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What do 74 arrests, 12 collisions, 13 injuries and one fatality have in common? They are the preliminary figures for driving under the influence related traffic crimes tallied for most of December for Placer County. Local law enforcement officials are hoping New Year’s Eve partygoers will heed warnings against drunk driving and find a safe way to go to and from their festivities. “My best advice is think about the people who you care about driving on the road because you wouldn’t want anybody driving drunk on the same road as them,” said Auburn Police Officer Scott Alford. Alford is helping coordinate this year’s Avoid the 7 efforts to keep roadways safe. Avoid the 7 is a countywide anti-drunk driving effort among seven law enforcement agencies including Auburn, Rocklin, Roseville and Lincoln police departments, Placer County Sheriff’s Office, California Highway Patrol and California State Park. The preliminary numbers were submitted Tuesday from some of those agencies documenting DUI-related infractions between Dec. 12 and Dec. 19. Alford said the California Highway Patrol has yet to turn in their DUI arrest-related numbers. He expects the final numbers to jump to about 100 arrests and more collisions by Jan. 1. California Highway Patrol spokeswoman Kelly Baraga said many DUI-related arrests are from people who are right at or just above the legal blood alcohol content of .08. “A lot of people when they go out and celebrate for New Year’s they think one or two drinks will be OK,” Baraga said. “The fact is one drink is going to impair your judgment so people need to really give it a lot of thought as to how they will celebrate.” Baraga added that a DUI arrest could end up costing an offender between $12,000 and $15,000 in Placer County. Plus, it remains on their driving record for 10 years, upping insurance payments, Baraga said. Also, the Placer County District Attorney’s Office has the highest number in the state for DUI convictions per arrests in the county – 91 percent, according to deputy district attorney Scott Owens. The number is based on statistics from the California District Attorney’s Association. Baraga said she hopes that statistic coupled with full enforcement New Year’s Eve will deter drunk drivers. “The message is pretty clear in Placer County – don’t drink and drive,” Baraga said. Law enforcement officials say they advise people to stay home or designate a driver. “Every year drunk driving is a very serious problem that causes tragedy throughout the state,” said Placer County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Dena Erwin. “People need to be reminded that planning ahead could save lives.” Designated Drivers Association is a nonprofit group based in Roseville. On New Year’s Eve, they expect to receive between 50 and 150 calls from the greater Sacramento area requesting a ride home, according to program director Stephanie Bridges. Bridges said teams of volunteers, who have been fingerprinted and undergone background checks, will drive out to a location. One volunteer will drive the requestee and their vehicle home while another follows to that location. She said the association runs strictly on donations. The service is free up to the first 20 miles and after that there is a standard $20 fee. New Year’s Eve celebrants can call (916) 335-5555 between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. Bridges said callers should anticipate the lines to be busy but they should keep calling until they reach a volunteer. “We are a safety net,” Bridges said. “Try your best to plan ahead and take taxi or designate a driver.” AAA of Northern California is again offering their Tipsy Tow service on New Year’s Eve. Call (800) 222-4357 or (800) AAA-HELP between 6 p.m. Dec. 31 and 6 a.m. Jan. 1 and a tow truck will tow a car for free up to the first 5 miles. Additional mileage costs is based on what the tow truck company charges. Also, law enforcement recommends celebrants check with local limousine or taxicab services to keep off the roads. “If you’re not sure you’ve had too much to drink, just don’t drive,” Erwin said. The Journal's Jenifer Gee can be reached at jeniferg@goldcountrymedia.com or post a comment. ---------- A little too much to drink? The following is a list of numbers New Year’s Eve celebrants can call if they need a ride home: - Designated Drivers Association: Call (916) 335-5555 between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. and a team of volunteers will come to drive you and your car home. - AAA Tipsy Tow: Call (800) 222-4357 or (800) AAA-HELP between 6 p.m. Dec. 31 and 6 a.m. Jan. 1 and a tow truck will tow a car for free up to the first 5 miles. Charges apply for subsequent miles. - Sierra Cab of Auburn: Call (530) 885-2227 ----------