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Police out in force seeking drunk drivers

December 31, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
Police officers are in large numbers New Year's Eve, looking to arrest drunk drivers and put them behind bars. A lot of people are going to be on the road Wednesday night, and the message is simple: Don't drink and drive. Unfortunately some people forget that on New Year's Eve, and the California Highway Patrol says it's going to be out there on the roads to make sure that people don't forget.

Meanwhile, there are many things you can do to get home safely without getting behind the wheel.

It's the new year and the same old problem: people who drink and drive. In Los Angeles County alone, police made 270 DUI arrests during the Christmas holiday period that ended this past Sunday. Statewide, that number is almost 1,400. Officers will be on maximum enforcement New Year's Eve.

"The maximum enforcement period will be all available CHP officers," said CHP Officer Tony Garrett. "We'll be out in force working the freeways and enforcing the laws. People still choose to go out and celebrate and use alcohol, and again, drinking and driving definitely does not mix."

Anthony Panzica is part of Scooter Patrol. He brings the scooter, folds it up and puts it in your vehicle. Then he'll drive you home in your own car. He uses the scooter to get back.

"We go into the bars early in the evening, before people are too drunk to understand what we're saying, and we explain our program to them," said Panzica. "We give them business cards, and we let them know that if they're in a bad position that they can give us a call and take them home."

And best of all, it's free. A number of restaurants like Legends in Belmont Shore use this service.

"For us it's a good opportunity to provide the service to customers so that if they have a good time, a little too much, that they get home safely," said Gene Rotondo, Legends Sports Bar.

And not just during the holidays, but year-round, drunk drivers account for a third of all traffic-related deaths. That's one every 31 minutes.

"I'm concerned about my safety, and I'm concerned about theirs," said restaurant patron Lynn Lehner. "But there's, you know, there's a lot of young people out there who -- they really don't care."

And even if you don't drink and drive, watch out for those who do. The CHP says always wear your seatbelts.

"During our Christmas maximum-enforcement period, there were 20 people that were killed throughout the state, and out of those 20, 15 were not wearing their seatbelts," said Officer Garrett. "So that's a big reminder to everyone to make sure you buckle up."

The American Automobile Association will have its Tipsy Tow service available Wednesday night to make sure that you and your car get home safely. The number is (800) 400-4222.


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