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Authorities warn partyers: Safety first!

Tips from AAA

  • At social events, designate nondrinking drivers who can get everyone home safely.
  • Call a friend or family member for a ride home if you have been drinking.
  • Keep a cab company telephone number in your wallet so you can call for a ride home.
  • As a party host, offer a variety of nonalcoholic drink alternatives and provide a gift to guests who volunteer to be designated drivers.
  • Take the car keys away from friends and relatives who have had too much to drink.

    Visit the AAA website.

  • New Year’s Eve revelers who plan to get behind the wheel after a few celebratory drinks, beware.

    Authorities will be out in force Friday night and Saturday morning to keep drunk drivers off the roads. In addition to regular patrols, two DUI checkpoints will be set up, including one in Studio City.

    Bars and clubs won’t be safe either, with plainclothes Los Angeles police officers posing as customers at selected watering holes to ensure bartenders are not serving alcohol to overly tipsy patrons.

    “Impaired drivers don’t think of safety,” said Detective Bill Bustos of the LAPD’s Valley Traffic Division. “They put other motorists and pedestrians at risk of becoming involved in a traffic collision. If impaired drivers don’t think of safety, we will think of safety for them.”

    LAPD has arrested 6,448 impaired drivers this year as of Wednesday and recorded 2,163 DUI-related traffic accidents, Bustos said.

    Officials note that alcohol-related fatalities have plummeted by 26 percent since the state increased funding for checkpoints in 2006, with the number of deaths falling nearly 8 percent statewide from 2008 to 2009, according to the Los Angeles Police Protective League.

    Tonight’s two checkpoints will be the latest of 15 that LAPD has operated in December during a crackdown on drunk driving during the holiday season.

    The Burbank and Glendale police departments, as well as the California Highway Patrol and L.A. County Sheriff’s

    Department, also will beef up patrols during the maximum-enforcement period, which lasts from tonight through Sunday.

    “It’s just to make sure that if it does get busy, we have enough people that can handle everything,” said Burbank police Sgt. Robert Quesada. “We’ll have a few more bodies out there, just to handle the number of calls that’ll come in, not just on traffic violations, but parties.”

    The agencies are among 100 regional organizations that comprise the “Avoid the 100” task force, aimed at curbing drunk driving during the holiday season starting Dec. 17.

    During last year’s maximum enforcement period, 36 people were killed in California and 1,168 more were injured in alcohol-related crashes.

    In all of 2009 in Los Angeles County, 156 were killed and 6,956 were injured in collisions where alcohol was involved, according to the task force.

    “We know that the holiday season can be one of the deadliest and most dangerous times on America’s roadways due to an increase in drunk driving,” said Chief Chuck Montoya of the Glendora Police Department, which spearheads the task force. “Don’t let 2010 end in an arrest or worse, death.”

    Young men are at particularly high risk, with nearly 25 percent admitting to riding with an impaired driver in the past year, according to the task force.

    “Plan ahead,” said Marie Montgomery, a spokeswoman for the Automobile Club of Southern California. “People need to realize that if they’re going to go to a holiday party, they really should try to have a designated driver or a way to get home.”

    Ten percent of motorists admitted to driving when they thought their blood alcohol content was above the legal limit, according to a recent AAA report.

    A first-time DUI conviction can cost $12,162 or more in fines, penalties, restitution, legal fees and increased insurance costs, according to AAA.

    The public is encouraged to report drunk drivers by calling 911.

    New Year’s Eve party hosts will also need to be careful, especially after midnight. A new law that takes effect Jan. 1 holds adult hosts of parties responsible for damage, injuries or death caused by minors who were served alcohol at a private party.

    Metro bus and rail lines will be free from 9 p.m. New Year’s Eve to 2 a.m. New Year’s Day to give people an alternative to drinking and driving, according to officials. Metro rail lines and the Orange Line busway will offer 24-hour service on Friday.

    The AAA will offer free towing from 6 p.m. Friday to 6 a.m. Saturday to those who are too drunk to drive home.

    The “Tipsy Tow” service does not include rides for passengers and is restricted to a one-way, one-time ride for the driver. For distances longer than seven miles, drivers will be expected to pay the normal rate charged by the tow truck operator.

    For a Tipsy Tow, call 1-800-400-4AAA.

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