State Patrol and local police agencies will have extra cars on the roads Monday night, watching for New Year’s Eve revelers who shouldn’t be behind the wheel.
Dedicated funds from the Washington State Traffic Safety Commission will see to that, said State Patrol Lt. Terry Liebrecht. He couldn’t quantify how many more officers will be on the street but said it will be a higher number than on an average night.
“Every night for us is a DUI emphasis,” he said. “On New Year’s Eve, we really look for them. ... If you’re going to an event where there may be an opportunity to imbibe, you want to make arrangements so that you don’t end up behind the wheel. What it boils down to is planning.”
Intoxicated drivers may not be the only hazard on the roads.
There will be patchy freezing fog throughout the Yakima and Kittitas valleys that night, said Rob Brooks, a National Weather Service meteorologist based in Pendleton, Ore.
“Visibility won’t be just restricted by the New Year’s partying,” Brooks said.
There is no significant precipitation predicted between now and Monday night. But the overnight lows could be in the teens, and with the fog in the air roads could get slippery, he said. That’s just one more reason for people to either designate a driver, call a cab or walk, Liebrecht said. People who are driving should have winter-weather equipped cars with snow tires, he said.
“But the best advice you can ever give anybody, regardless of the weather, is to make arrangements ahead of time and have a plan,” Liebrecht said.
Yakima Transit, which in the past has expanded its schedule to accommodate downtown revelers, is not doing that this year because there is no public downtown New Year’s Eve party. But there are cabs available, and you can always designate a driver, Liebrecht said.
“Take a moment and plan it,” he said. “Make sure you’ve got a ride so you don’t find yourself at 1 a.m. in the back of a patrol car.”
The good news, he said, is that the publicity surrounding New Year’s Eve DUI patrols seems to be working. Incidence of DUI has actually been lower in recent years, he said.
“Society is beginning to understand culturally that it’s not acceptable to drink and drive,” Liebrecht said.
• Pat Muir can be reached at 509-577-7693 or firstname.lastname@example.org.