As Forsyth County residents prepare to ring in 2013 tonight, public safety officials are urging them to put safety first and plan ahead.
“The most important thing is to have a plan for a sober way home before you even leave the house,” said Forsyth County Sheriff’s Lt. Jody Chapman.
“I think that’s where people go wrong. And that’s when it can turn into injuries, fatalities or arrests.”
Chapman said those who plan to drink alcohol New Year’s Eve should find a designated driver, stay home or have a cab company’s phone number programmed into their cell phones before having a drink.
Despite law enforcement efforts to cut down on driving under the influence, Chapman said there still are people who will drink and drive. That’s why the office will be in full force tonight.
“Our HEAT unit and DUI task force will be out … in the evening and into the wee hours in the morning,” Chapman said. “We’ll have some of our other extra uniform patrols out and we’ll be doing sporadic road checks throughout the county.”
In addition to intoxicated drivers, Chapman said deputies will be looking for seat belt use, speeding and child restraints.
The Forsyth County Fire Department will also be fully staffed tonight, said Division Chief Jason Shivers, though the holiday “doesn’t typically have the experience of fireworks-related issues that the Fourth of July does.”
“But regardless, safety needs to be everyone’s top priority and please remember that the only fireworks that are legal in Georgia are those that are ground based ... any fireworks that are aerial devices are strictly illegal in the state of Georgia,” he said.
For those planning to light fireworks to celebrate the arrival of the new year, Shivers said recent rains have been in the department’s favor.
“That’s certainly going to help keep from getting the grass and brush from being easily ignitable,” he said. “But we’ll be in our fire stations at full staff levels and ready to respond to any needs.”
Although public safety officials will be prepared, Chapman said Forsyth County typically sees few incidents over the holiday.
“Usually people tend to be a lot safer on New Year’s Eve than they are on normal weekends because they realize there’s a larger [law enforcement] presence on the road,” he said.
“Traffic enforcement-wise, it seems to be slower on New Year’s Eve … but you still get people who don’t listen.”