Alcohol and driving: A deadly combination

By Mike Linn

The holiday season brings with it Christmas parties, time off from work and plenty of down time with family and friends.
It also brings with it drunk driving. More people calling taxi cabs from bars. And more alcohol-related crimes.
In an effort to keep drinking and driving at bay this holiday season, local law enforcement officials are beefing up patrols on city streets and conducting DUI checkpoints on major roads and highways.
“This time period is probably one of the worst of the year (for drinking and driving),” 9th Judicial District Attorney Brett Carter said.
The most deadly nights of the year for victims of drunk driving are New Year’s Eve and the Fourth of July, Carter said.
Carter said there will probably be between three and five checkpoints in Roosevelt and Curry counties this holiday season.
But local law enforcement officials say keeping the streets safe — not tallying up DUI arrests — is their main goal.
Advertisements of DUI checkpoints, various DUI programs and advertisements about the dangers of drinking and driving help curb drunk driving, according to Portales Police Capt. Lonnie Berry. Berry said Portales police will conduct a few checkpoints between now and New Year’s and increase patrols during the holiday season.
“The holidays typically yield more alcohol-related crimes, so we always try to be aware of that and be proactive from the beginning,” Berry said.
Clovis Police Capt. Dan Blair said increased patrolling during peak times — when drinking and driving is more prevalent — typically yields more DUI arrests than checkpoints.
Since September, Clovis police have arrested 90 people for DUI, an amount Blair said is higher than normal.
Blair suggests employing a designated driver, calling a cab or even walking for individuals who have been drinking.
At least some locals in the past have heeded Blair’s advice: During the holidays, more Clovis residents use cab services to and from local bars.
Christian Heller, owner of City Cab Co. in Clovis, said in December 2002 his service had 154 fairs, up from 110 on an average month.
“Unless somebody sits behind the driver with a loaded gun and makes them drive, there’s pretty much no excuse (for drinking and driving),” he said.