SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – New Year’s Eve is one of the most dangerous days of the year on the road, experts say.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), an average of 300 people die between Christmas and New Year’s every year from drunk driving.
As revelers prepare to ring in 2022, local law enforcement is urging drivers to stay sober behind the wheel.
“I personally believe that one drink is too many to drive,” said Lt. Emory Randolph with the Tybee Island Police Department. “If there’s any doubt in your mind that you’re capable of operating a motor vehicle safely, you definitely need to find a sober, safe ride home.”
Lt. Randolph said the department has arrested nearly 120 people this year due to driving under the influence – the most recent just days before Christmas. While it’s not as high as last year’s total of 131, Randolph said it’s still cause for concern.
“Any time a police officer is exposed to a dramatic incident like that, it affects us just like it does anybody else and that’s one thing people don’t take into account,” he said. “When you make decisions to operate a motor vehicle under the influence or other reckless behavior it’s not just affecting yourself. There’s a lot of other people that are gonna experience that along with you as well.”
The NHTSA said the most dangerous time on the road is in the early hours of New Year’s Day between 1 a.m. and 3 a.m. when celebrations are wrapping up.
“New Year’s is one of the top five most dangerous times to drive on the roadway because of the increase of alcohol consumption,” said David Murphy, owner of 911 Driving School Hilton Head.
911 Driving School offers driver training programs, as well as DUI education. Murphy, a former law enforcement officer, said the roads become more dangerous around this time every year.
“Holidays should be celebrated and enjoyed by everybody, but you’ve got to do it responsibly,” he said. “It does add a whole other level of emotions when you see something that could’ve been easily avoided by getting a designated driver or calling a cab.”
Experts say if you see a driver swerving, unable to maintain their speed or driving without headlights, they could be drunk.
“Stay behind them. Call 911, call it in. Let them know, ‘Hey, I’m behind a possible drunk driver, a DUI,'” Murphy advised. “My experience is I’ve worked some really bad accidents over several years. So just call it in, don’t try to get involved other than that.”
In Georgia, you can face up to one year in jail and license suspension, on top of a maximum fine of $1,000, for a first-time DUI offense.
For a first offense in South Carolina, you face a fine of up to $400, a maximum of 30 days in jail and a 6-month license suspension.