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Thinking of drinking? Don't drive
Authorities ready for revelers
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Cumming Police Officer Bryan Zimbardi tests a laser speed detector Tuesday, just one of the devices Cumming police expect to use as they patrol the holiday weekend. - photo by Jim Dean (previous profile)
Authorities are urging holiday revelers to stay safe while ringing in 2009.

The New Year’s holiday travel period begins at 6 tonight and goes through midnight Sunday.

Cumming Police Chief Mike Eason said officers will be working with the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office and the Georgia State Patrol to keep roads safe from those who have had too much holiday cheer.

“That’s where the designated drivers, cab companies and stay-at-home parties are the way to go,” he said. “We encourage everybody to be careful out there. And if you’re not drinking, you need to be on the alert for people who might be.”

Eason said over the Christmas holiday and weekend, officers worked about six wrecks, but no major criminal activity was reported.

“There was a lot of activity around the shopping centers, but everybody behaved themselves pretty well,” he said. “We didn’t have any serious problems.”

Sheriff’s Capt. Frank Huggins said deputies will conduct safety checkpoints New Year’s Eve at various locations throughout the county.

“We’ll have zero tolerance for anyone who has an open container in the car or who is driving after they’ve been drinking,” he said.

Huggins said even one alcoholic drink can impair driving.

He said from 6 p.m. Dec. 24 to midnight Sunday, the sheriff’s office responded to 44 wrecks, none of which involved life-threatening injuries.

According to the Georgia Department of Public Safety, authorities have estimated there will be 3,008 wrecks, 1,350 injuries and 20 traffic fatalities statewide over the holiday period. Last year during that same span, 1,250 people were injured and 22 killed in  3,108 wrecks.

Col. Bill Hitchens, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Safety, said in a statement that troopers will be patrolling state highways, interstates and county roads.

While just two of the fatalities reported last year were alcohol-related, Hitchens said, “New Year’s is traditionally associated with festivities that often involve the consumption of alcoholic beverages.”

“And tragically that leads to an increase in the number of impaired drivers on our roads,” he said. “Remember to plan ahead for your holiday parties and plan non-alcoholic beverages for designated drivers.

“Everyone can benefit by remembering to not let friends drive drunk.”

Hitchens also suggested that party hosts arrange for alternate transportation for guests by calling a taxi or having a sober friend or family member drive guests home.

E-mail Julie Arrington at juliearrington@forsythnews.com.