Webster law enforcement officials are urging motorists to be safe during the New Year’s celebrations.
Webster Parish Sheriff Gary Sexton, Minden Police Chief Steve Cropper and officials with the Louisiana State Police say they will beef up patrol New Year’s Eve.
“We encourage people, if they drink, whatever they do, don’t drive,” Sexton said. “Have a designated driver pre-planned for the holiday, and just use some common sense and forethought. If something happens and your plans don’t work out, we don’t offer escorts but we will do anything in the world we can to try to get a person from one point to another.
Don’t get yourself in a bind and get behind the wheel of a vehicle just because you have to get home.”
He says if someone has been drinking and cannot get home or to their destination, call the sheriff’s office and they will help make arrangements.
Minden Police Chief Steve Cropper says they will offer escorts to those who need it.
“We want everybody to enjoy the New Year and have a good time, but if you decide to celebrate a little bit too much, always try to get a designated driver,” he said. “If you get to the point where you’ve had too much to drink and have no other mode of transportation, call us and we will supply a ride to keep you from driving.”
Sexton says drinking and driving can become very expensive between the criminal and civil liability of getting involved in an alcohol-related crash.
“If you get a DWI, there’s no help,” he said. “We have zero tolerance for it.”
The legal limit is .08, although impairment is different for every person, the sheriff said. One person may have a couple of beers and be fine. Another may have one drink and become impaired, he added.
“Alcohol affects people in different ways,” Sexton said. “It’s just how your system reacts to it. Even though you may not register the .08, you may very well be impaired to drive a vehicle.”
If a person is arrested for driving while intoxicated, they can bond out on the first or second offense; however, there is a mandatory waiting period before that person can make bond. The idea is to make sure the person is sober enough to get home.
Cropper says if they arrest someone on DWI, they will hold them for as long as it takes for them to sober up. Sometimes it takes six hours to eight hours, sometimes it’s overnight.
“We like to hold them for at least six to eight hours depending on the individual,” Cropper said. “Usually people who are arrested for DWI, we usually don’t let them bond out until the following morning. It depends on what time they come in. The last thing we’re going to do is let somebody out that’s still intoxicated and go out and hurt somebody after they’ve been arrested.”
“If you’ve had a DWI in the past, then it’s an enhanced penalty,” Sexton said. “If you’ve had a DWI two, then you’re looking at a felony offense. There is mandatory jail time on all DWIs. The idea is to give the alcohol enough time to get out of your system.”
Louisiana State Police Troop G Public Information Officer Matt Harris says through the holidays, they have worked two fatal crashes, both involving ATVs where alcohol is suspected to be a factor.
“We urge people to make the right choice and drive sober no matter what you’re driving, whether it be an ATV, a car or a lawnmower,” he said. “Any time you add the element of alcohol, it drastically increases the chances of being involved in a crash and it decreases the ability to operate any machinery or any vehicle to the optimal level.”
On a statewide level, Harris says the number of vehicle crashes where alcohol was suspected to be a factor were consistently high.
“This is the deadliest time of the year and it shouldn’t be,” he said. “We increase enforcement to try to gain compliance to try to reduce injury crashes and fatal crashes statewide. We’ve already had a few checkpoints through the holidays and we’ll continue to have them through the New Year. We’ve been partnering with other agencies to continue that effort.”