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Forsyth authorities urge revelers to ring in 2015 safely
Checkpoints will be targeting DUIs and speeders


The Governor’s Office of Highway Safety and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration offer the following tips to keep celebrations safe:

* Before attending a party, make a plan to get home safely. If you decide to drink, designate a sober driver ahead of time and leave your keys at home, or program the phone number of a friend or local taxi service into your phone.

* Have that plan in place before taking that first sip of alcohol. If you wait until you’re too impaired to drive, you’re more likely to make an bad decision. Alcohol affects judgment, which may cause you to think you’re “OK to drive” when you’re not.

* If you’ve been drinking, call a taxi or a sober friend or family member. Use public transportation or find a sober ride service or cab company by using the Drive Sober, Georgia app. Download it before the night begins so it will be ready when you need it.

* If someone you know is drinking, don’t let that person drive.

* Call police or dial *GSP if you see someone driving drunk.

FORSYTH COUNTY — Officials in Forsyth County and throughout the state are urging Georgians to party safely this New Year’s Eve, making sure revelers don’t leave the bars only to end up behind them.

End-of-the-year celebrations often involve alcohol, whether at a house party or establishment, so it comes as no surprise that there’s a spike in drunk-driving crashes, according to the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety.

Harris Blackwood, the director of the office, said in a statement that residents have “so many options to make sure you get home safely at the end of the night.”

“Volunteer to be your group’s sober ride this year, or download the Drive Sober, Georgia app with a list of sober ride options near you, or arrange to stay the night where you’re ringing in the new year,” he said.

Blackwood cited those options and others, including AAA’s Tow To Go program — a service that drives you and your car home Christmas Eve through New Year’s Day — for there being no excuse to drive drunk.

Law enforcement agencies also will continue to participate in the statewide Operation Zero Tolerance campaign that lasts through Jan. 1.

During the high-visibility enforcement period, officers will be cracking down on impaired driving. The Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office is part of that mission.

Sheriff’s Lt. Scott Wilson said the traffic unit plans to work extra hours and longer shifts, spanning daytime and nighttime coverage. Deputies will be concentrating on speed, aggressive driving and impaired drivers, conducting safety checkpoints throughout the county “to reduce serious injury and fatality accidents.”

“Generally, statewide there is an increase in alcohol-related crashes,” Wilson said of New Year’s Eve. “Just drink responsibly. Think about the consequences before you start.”

Forsyth drivers will see concentrated enforcement areas, with deputies focusing on speed and seatbelts by having two groups on the side of the road checking motorists.

According to the highway safety office, drunk drivers caused 1,143 wrecks statewide during last year’s holiday period (Nov. 20-Dec. 31). There were 684 injuries reported in those crashes.

“We lost 18 people on Georgia roads to impaired drivers [during that span],” Blackwood said. “Those 18 people could still be here today, celebrating the new year with their loved ones, if those drivers had simply called a cab or designated a sober driver.

“These incidents are avoidable, and the solutions are simple. Don’t drink and drive.”

Still, some drunk drivers don’t learn the lesson the first time.

According to Blackwood’s office, 53 percent of the drunk drivers in fatal crashes last year had at least one previous driving under the influence conviction on their records.

“The risks just aren’t worth it,” Blackwood said. “You could find yourself in the back of a police car headed to jail or, worse, you could kill someone or end up seriously injured or dead yourself.”

Impaired drivers don’t face just jail time. A DUI can result in the loss of a driver’s license, higher insurance rates and dozens of other anticipated expenses ranging from attorney fees, court and towing costs and repairs to lost wages and time off from work.

“A DUI,” Blackwood said, “will also cost you around $10,000.”