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Law enforcement plans checkpoints, saturation patrols to combat New Year's Eve DUIs

Johnson City Press • Dec 30, 2016 at 6:24 PM

Area policing agencies vow to be on the streets in force over the New Year’s holiday to enforce DUI laws and make sure everyone starts the year safely.

The Tennessee Highway Patrol will conduct a “No Refusal” traffic safety enforcement campaign during the 2016 New Year’s Eve holiday period beginning Friday, Dec. 30, at 6 p.m. and concluding Sunday, Jan. 1, at 11:59 p.m. State troopers will perform saturation patrols and bar/tavern checks as well as seat belt, sobriety and driver’s license checkpoints during the holiday.

The state “No Refusal” statute allows law enforcement officials to seek and quickly receive search warrants for blood samples in cases involving suspected impaired drivers. The “No Refusal” enforcement will take place in one county in each of the eight THP Districts.

Washington County is among those targeted for “No Refusal” checkpoints, along with Sevier, Coffee, Rutherford, Shelby, Putnam, Maury and Benton counties.

“The goal of the THP is to keep everyone who is traveling on Tennessee roadways safe,” Col. Tracy Trott said. “We will not tolerate impaired drivers. State troopers will aggressively enforce the drinking and driving law during the New Year’s holiday period.”

Both Johnson City Police Department officers and Washington Sheriff’s Office deputies will conduct saturation patrols in partnership with the Tennessee Highway Safety Office’s “Booze It and Lose It” impaired driving campaign. Local law enforcement agencies are provided with grant overtime funding through the Highway Safety Office to put extra patrols on roads during times when drunken driving could be potentially heavy.

“We certainly understand that citizens want to celebrate and welcome in the New Year. However, if they choose to celebrate with alcohol or other substances that can impair their driving, we ask that they have a designated driver or stay off the roads. Our agency will have extra units out during the holiday in an effort to keep the roads safe for everyone,” Sheriff Ed Graybeal said in a news release announcing the stepped-up patrols.

The Johnson City Police Department reminded drivers that getting behind the wheel after even just one too many drinks can lead to disaster. Although Tennessee’s legal blood alcohol concentration limit is .08, even a slight alcoholic “buzz” that’s well below legal limits can be unsafe for drivers and lead to their arrest for impaired driving.

According to the THP, during last year’s New Year’s holiday period, nine people were killed in nine traffic crashes on Tennessee roadways. Of the nine vehicular fatalities, eight were vehicle occupants and one was a pedestrian. Alcohol was involved in three of the traffic deaths, while four of the eight vehicle occupants killed were not wearing seat belts.