Authorities urge people to use caution New Year’s Eve
New Year’s Eve can be a fun night, but local law enforcement officials are stressing the importance of drinking responsibly and not driving drunk to ensure people don’t start 2019 behind bars.
Beatrice Chief of Police Bruce Lang and Gage County Sheriff Millard “Gus” Gustafson both caution people around the holidays to drink responsibly and ensure that they plan a safe way to get home.
Because drunk driving has been on the decline in Gage County in recent years, both men said they do not plan to increase the number of officers on duty.
Gustafson said that attitudes and practices around driving drunk have changed considerably during his time in law enforcement. He said people have gotten better at lining up designated drivers or calling taxis.
Gustafson credited this to an increase in responsibility in members of the public surrounding driving under the influence. He said a steep increase in public awareness and a change in culture have been instrumental to keeping the public safer.
“We don’t bring drunks in like we used to,” Gustafson said. “We’re there to protect the public, not wanting to arrest them, but we’re there for a reason and a purpose.”
Gustafson stressed that a DUI charge comes with serious consequences that can derail someone’s life. The first offense can include jail time, a fine, and revocation of their drivers license. The sentences for repeat offenders get worse rapidly.
Driving while drunk can cause tragedy for more than just the driver, Gustafson said. He said there is often collateral damage that hurts people who were innocent.
The story can be particularly tragic around the holidays. Gustafson recalled one terrible accident many years ago on Thanksgiving morning in which a drunk driver hit a family’s vehicle head on. Gustafson said all but one of the people involved were killed.
“I’d like to say stay home and don’t drink, but we all know that won’t happen,” Gustafson said. “Have a designated driver, have a safe way to get home, and be responsible.”
Lang said that the Beatrice Police Department sees more activity at bars and restaurants than usual on New Years Eve, but the night functions basically the same as any for them.
He said that an increase in reports of erratic driving from the community has allowed the police force to apprehend drunk drivers more efficiently. He encourages the public to call 911 and let dispatchers know if they see someone driving dangerously in Beatrice.
Since more people are being caught, Lang said, those who might have driven drunk before are now less likely to do so.
“The chances that you’re going to get caught in this day and age are very high.” he said.
Lang also said that people who think they are safe to drive may be over the legal limit of .08 percent blood alcohol content. Often people who think they haven’t had very much to drink are stopped by police, so Lang stresses caution when drinking.
“With a .08 standard, that’s not very much.” he said.