Police step up DWI enforcement for New Year's weekend
COLUMBIA – The Missouri State Highway Patrol wants drivers to make good decisions to start the new year off right during celebrations.
The 2017 New Year's holiday counting period begins at 6 p.m. on Friday and runs until 11:59 p.m. on Monday.
Over the counting period last year, there were 954 traffic crashes that injured 364 people, and there were seven fatalities, according to an MSHP news release.
Trooper Jacob Vislay talked about how they spot drunk drivers.
“It’s going to be any other common DWI scenario, lane violations, not being able to keep a car within a lane, any kind of careless or reckless driving," Vislay said. "Also speeding is just an indicator. A lot of things that just show inattentiveness are kind of dead giveaways."
If people’s New Year’s plans involve alcohol, the highway patrol advises people to designate a sober driver before a party starts or to take a taxi.
Danielle Doyen, a bartender at Tellers, said the restaurant will be helping to make sure everyone stays safe.
“Obviously we want to be sure that everyone’s safe, so we will be promoting the Uber app, we will be making sure to call taxis for people, making sure to spot DDs around the restaurant," Doyen said. "So yeah, we’ll be making sure that everybody’s safe, but also having a really good time on the best party night of the year."
A downtown restaurant saw the effects of drunk driving firsthand, but no one was hurt.
“We were actually run into by a drunk driver at one point. We had one crash through the front of our storefront so, yes we are very much aware of the problem and don’t condone it or endorse it. That happened in January of last year. We are approaching the one-year anniversary of that as a matter of fact. So yes we are aware of the issue," Umbria front of house manager Peter Weis said.
Billy Giordano, Managing Partner at Room 38 Restaurant & Lounge in Columbia, said the restaurant will have increased staff on New Year’s, and employees call cabs and help find drivers or Uber when it is needed.
He said people usually make plans for safe transportation, but he advises people to stay conscious of how much they are drinking.
“We all know people who have gotten DWI's, have been affected by drunk driving, and for some have had their lives changed or ended," Giordano said. "I think the crack down on the issue has helped decrease drunk driving substantially, but there's always going to be the people who think bad things ‘will never happen to me.’ It's our responsibility to be the voice of reason any chance we get, especially in this industry."
Drivers who have been drinking may end up with a DWI arrest or in a drinking-related traffic crash.
In a news release, the patrol said drivers who cause traffic crashes might start their New Year losing their license, being arrested, facing legal fees, medical bills or even jail time.
The patrol encourages people driving to and from New Year’s gatherings to remember to buckle their seat belt, follow traffic laws and be courteous.
Although troopers patrol year-round, and even more on holidays, New Year’s is different.
“Christmas traveling is going to be a lot of interstate traveling, people visiting families, it’s not going to be focused as much on drinking," Vislay said. "I know everyone will have a good time with their family and that’s not uncommon. But New Year’s is going to be more of a party scene. So people are going to be probably local, not traveling far distances, but probably consuming a lot more alcohol and getting in their cars."
There will be extra officers out working during this time to target drunk drivers.