Patrols increased for holiday

  By Thomas Wilson
  star staff

  With many revelers planning to ring in New Year's Eve with a glass or two of bubbly spirits, state and local law enforcement agencies will be stepping up patrols tonight through the New Year's holiday in hopes of preventing drunk driving fatalities on Tennessee roadways.
  The official New Year's holiday period begins at 6 o'clock tonight and continues until midnight Sunday. During the 2003 New Year's holiday the Tennessee Department of Safety reported 17 fatal crashes occurred resulting in 23 deaths including one pedestrian - a fatality rate of one death per four hours and 24 minutes.
  Elizabethton Deputy Police Chief Larry Shell said Thursday the department would have additional officers patrolling the streets tonight to guard against potential increase in the number of intoxicated drivers on the road.
  "We've adjusted the schedule for traffic officers on shift," said Shell. "We will have some additional manpower out to watch for the DUIs."
  Alcohol played a factor in a significant number of crashes during last year's holiday season. The number of alcohol-related crashes hit 57 percent during the 2003 New Year's holiday, according to the Tennessee Highway Patrol.
  "The Tennessee Highway Patrol will do everything within its power to ensure motorists on Tennessee roadways have a safe and happy holiday season," said THP Colonel Lynn Pitts in a statement released earlier this week. "We've planned for aggressive enforcement methods during the back-to-back holiday weekends."
  The THP found seat belts played a major role in survival rate of motorists involved in traffic accidents. During the 2003 Christmas and New Year's holiday periods, a total of 16 (51 percent) of motor vehicle occupants killed were not wearing seat belts.
  Shell said law enforcement agencies were well-aware of the holiday's historic traditions.
  "A lot of parties occur round New Year's Eve and we do try to watch for those who have had too much too drink," Shell said.
  Anyone under the influence of a drug that affects the central nervous system, including prescription drugs, is prohibited from operating a motor vehicle. Penalties for violation of DUI laws are severe serious with stiff sentences for multiple offenders.
  A person convicted of first offense DUI can expect $350 fine; 48 hours jail time and the revocation of his or her driver's license for one year. A second conviction carries a $600 fines, 45 days in jail and a two-year license revocation while a third conviction comes with a $1,100 fine, a 120-day sentence, and driver's license revocation for three years.
  Additional costs, such as towing fees, car storage, bail, court costs, higher insurance rates, and an alcohol education program, can be expected to total nearly $5,000.
  In 2003, Tennessee had approximately 270 fatal crashes that involved alcohol. The Department of Safety reported 1,095 fatalities had occurred during 2004 on Tennessee roadways through Dec. 30 - 94 fewer fatalities than at the same time in 2003.