Police Plan Saturation Patrols To Deter Holiday Duis

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Ring in the new year with friends, mirth and a grand time -- not jail time.

Don Engler, Payson police commander, said residents can expect more officers and dense saturation of law enforcement personnel patrolling throughout town.

"We aren't going to use checkpoint patrols," Engler said. "We like the saturation patrol. We feel that we have a little more impact on the entire town. We aren't devoted to one specific area. We've been pretty successful, and we've been pleasantly surprised."

More and more New Year's Eve partyers are turning to sober friends and supporters to act as designated drivers, said Engler.

"I think the education programs are working," Engler added. "People are becoming more aware. Even though our DUI numbers remain high, especially on the big holiday weekends, we see more designated drivers."

In 2003, Mothers Against Drunk Drivers reported impaired drivers caused 470 out of 1,120 fatalities, or 42 percent of vehicular deaths.

And drunken driving is expensive. The few dollars spent on a taxi ride home can save motorists thousands of dollars in fines and hours of counseling.

In September, first-time offense fines increased to between $250 and $2,500; and penalties are more stringent: 24 hours in jail, six-month license suspension, court-ordered substance abuse financed by you; and community service.

The justice system has little sympathy for second- and third-time offenders: 30 days in jail, license revocation, more than $2,000 in fines and fees, substance abuse counseling and community service.

Extreme DUI offenses carry heavier fines and prison time.

"We're going to provide as much saturation as possible to keep people safe," Engler said. "If you see people out on the road, give the police a call. We rely on the community to help us."

Signs to watch for include weaving, cutting corners short, bumping curbs and driving without lights on. When reporting a drunken driver, be prepared to give dispatch a license plate number, a description of the car, the number of occupants and a rundown of the dangerous driving.

To prevent accidents, incarceration and even death, take advantage of the services offered by community agencies.

The Payson Police Department will provide free rides from 8 p.m. Dec. 31 to around 3 a.m. Jan. 1.

The Ox Bow Saloon, Payson's historic watering hole, welcomes designated drivers. Lee Zollner, an employee at the Ox Bow, said designated drivers receive free cover and all the soda they can drink.

"We don't want to see anyone on the road who shouldn't be on the road," said Zollner. "It's very important to us that we stay in tune with the police department. We want to work well with everyone and keep our patrons safe."

Mazatzal Casino also offers services for impaired customers.

"The Tonto Apache police will have a Breathalyzer machine at the front door for patrons if they want to have their blood alcohol tested," said general manager James McDermott. "We usually inquire if they have a designated driver who could take them home, and if not, we provide a free shuttle service."

For free rides, contact the Payson Police Department at (928) 474-5187; to report a drunken driver, call (928) 474-3288.

Lightning Transportation is also providing group discounts Friday, Dec. 30 and Saturday, Dec. 31. To arrange a ride, call (928) 474-3595.

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