Police message: Have fun, don’t drink and drive

“Drive sober or get pulled over,” the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says, and local police couldn’t agree more.

Partygoers in Frederick, Shenandoah and Warren counties should expect high DUI enforcement on New Year’s Eve, local law enforcement authorities said. Full shifts and extra police officers will be patrolling the streets to get impaired drivers off the road, enforce noise ordinances and respond to drunken fights.

Corinne Geller, public relations manager for the Virginia State Police, said state troopers would be out in full force patrolling the streets in conjunction with local police efforts.

“We will have increased visibility not only on New Year’s Eve night, but throughout the weekend because we recognize a lot of folks will be delaying parties because of the work week,” Geller said. “We will have officers working with local police on check points.”

Geller continued, “Check points are a deterrent, because folks know there is a good chance they could be stopped at a check point and arrested. It makes people think twice before getting behind the wheel.”

Maj. Scott Proctor, of the Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Department, said while deputies will not be working in a formal capacity with the state police, both departments would have additional patrols.

“Every year we have some additional personnel out,” Proctor said. “We’ve always had a good relationship with the state police and while we won’t be formally organized, we will both be focused on getting drunk drivers off the road.”

Proctor said because the Sheriff’s Office must divide its personnel between service calls and road patrols, the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles has given the department grants to pay deputies overtime to arrest drunk drivers.

“It’s grant money, it pays our deputies overtime so the patrols do not interfere with our regular calls for service, so there’s still an X number of deputies out handling normal calls,” Proctor said.

Proctor said while he normally sees in an increase in service calls during New Year’s Eve, what will happen tonight is entirely unpredictable.

“If we knew what was going to happen, we wouldn’t need a badge and a gun,” Proctor said. “We’d just call them up and say, ‘hey, don’t go out tonight.'”

Front Royal police Chief Norman Shiflett said his department would also have increased patrols while residents ring in the New Year.

“We’re going to do saturation patrols, which is having officers out there who will only concentrate on finding and arresting impaired drivers,” Shiflett said. “We’ll be out there looking.”

Shiflett said he sees a lot of calls for drunk and unruly conduct, as well as assaults during the New Year’s Eve celebration.

“Anytime you have alcohol, there’s always an array [of]  things that can crop up,” Shiflett said. “It’s usually just public intoxication.”

However, Shiflett said over the course of his 31-year career, he has seen an overall decrease in DUIs and public intoxication during New Year’s Eve.

“People know that we’re out here, there’s more police officers on the street and they know we’re looking for drunk drivers,” Shiflett said. “Stiffer DUI penalties and a lower legal limit is a major contributing factor.”

The Winchester Police Department will also have extra patrols on New Year’s Eve, as well as policing the crowds that will gather for First Night Winchester in downtown Winchester.

Lauren Cummings, public relations specialist for Winchester Police, said despite the concentration of bars and pubs in the area, there are rarely incidents during the events due to the large police presence.

“We don’t usually have any major incidents during First Night,” Cummings said. “We usually have extra police, bike patrol, police on foot and regular police out for service calls and extra personnel for DUI enforcement.”

In Virginia, a DUI can result in jail time, fines, loss of a license and towing fees, which can add up to $10,000 on the average. In order to avoid that fate, Geller, Proctor, Shiflett and Cummings all stressed the following:

  • Don’t drink and drive.
  • If somebody has been drinking and is about to leave the party, stop them and call a taxi or a sober friend.
  • Have a designated driver or a taxi on speed dial.

Contact staff writer Henry Culvyhouse at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or hculvyhouse@nvdaily.com