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Nationwide New Year’s Eve Crackdown On Drunken Driving

December 31, 1985

Undated (AP) _ A New Hampshire television commercial portrays a grandmother knitting booties while a voice tells viewers the booties won’t be needed. The child was killed in a crash caused by a drunken driver.

It is a harsh image, one of many reminders for tonight’s holiday revelers, and part of a nationwide New Year’s Eve crackdown on drunken driving.

Free cab and bus rides, additional police patrols and programs to encourage a ″driver″ in a group to stay sober all are part of an effort to avoid traffic fatalities tonight.

In Phoenix, Ariz., billboards placed by Mothers Against Drunk Driving went up Monday showing six people carrying a coffin. The billboard reads, ″You should have called for a lift earlier.″

Free rides for people who drink too much are available in many cities, including Nashville, Tenn., where nearly 200 people have called for service since Dec. 20. Free cab service is also available in Albuquerque, N.M.; Little Rock, Ark.; Raleigh, N.C.; Lansing, Mich.; Pittsburgh; Kansas City; St. Louis. and a number of Indiana cities.

Colorado state police have 55 patrol teams in 32 counties and plan 10 ″sobriety″ roadblocks for random checks for intoxication.

New Mexico and Indiana state police will add extra patrols between 6 p.m. and 5 a.m. In Arkansas, troopers who normally handle licensing and inspections join patrols in a New Year’s crackdown. In Florida, police will run ″holiday squads″ and many cities will operate sobriety checkpoints.

″If the person has not been drinking, we’ll hand him a pamphlet (on drunk driving) and tell him to have a nice holiday,″ said Cooper City, Fla., police Sgt. Jacob Saredy. ″The whole thing shouldn’t take more than two minutes.″

Sobriety checkpoints mainly serve as a deterrent, said California Highway Patrol Officer Steve Kohler.

″We don’t expect to arrest a great number of people,″ he said. ″The primary impact is the amount of publicity we are generating will make people think twice before driving under the influence.″

″People in general are fed up with drunks killing and maiming on the highway,″ said Lt. Col. John Carmody of the Florida Highway Patrol. ″The public awareness is there this year. A lot of alcohol establishments are getting involved too by installing breath test machines.″

Jan Bledsoe of the Indiana Governor’s Task Force Against Drunk Driving said, ″We have a public awareness program called ‘Keys to Friendship,’ emphasizing host-hostess responsibility. There is more to being a good host than just throwing a good party.″

New Year’s Eve always produces many first-time offenders, said Sgt. Guy Benningfield in Dallas.

″We get little old grannies. We get a lot of middle-aged and older people who’ve never been arrested in their lives,″ he said.

In Pittsburgh, employees of the Aluminum Company of America received disposable breath testers and vouchers for cab rides. U.S. Steel employees were given ″designated driver″ buttons showing a cocktail glass behind a Ghost Busters-style circle with a diagonal line through it.

In Delaware, the Office of Highway Safety lends breath testers to private groups, but the number of requests outnumbers the 45 testers available.

New York police will set up roadblocks, free coffee will be available at restaurants and gas stations along the New York Thruway, and free rides will be offered on New York City buses and subways and on buses in Albany, Rochester and Buffalo.

The office of Georgia Gov. Joe Frank Harris, a dedicated teetotaler, has prepared a television message showing a ticking clock and a car careening down a road. When the clock strikes midnight, the car crashes into a telephone pole.

In Columbus, Ga., 19 bars and restaurants are encouraging ″designated driver″ parties by providing free soft drinks along with badges saying ″I’m driving″ to drivers who promise to avoid alcohol.

Several Louisiana sheriff’s and police departments offer free rides, and in suburban New Orleans, a wrecker service offers free towing to those who believe they shouldn’t drive.

However, Louisiana State Police spokesman Mike Roop said, ″We’d rather urge moderation and some common sense, rather than getting as drunk as you want and feeling like you have a free taxi ride.″

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