McALESTER, Okla. — Local authorities want to remind revelers that if they drink and drive during the New Year weekend, the cost of doing so will be steep.
McAlester Police Department Chief Gary Wansick said MPD will protect and serve through increased traffic enforcement and officers will be looking diligently for those suspected of driving under the influence this holiday.
“The McAlester Police Department is always prepared for the New Year’s Eve celebrations,” Wansick said. “We expect people to be cautious and use a designated driver to stay safe.”
On Nov. 1, 2017, the state of Oklahoma changed the statute where if anyone is pulled over and arrested for driving under the influence they will now face charges in District Court instead of Misdemeanor Court and will face heftier fines.
According to the Department of Motor Vehicles, any alcohol — even in small amounts — slows your reaction time and impairs your senses. Drivers might think they are sober after drinking only a small amount of alcohol, but studies show that even one drink can impair the ability to operate a motor vehicle.
As of last Friday, 613 people lost their lives on Oklahoma roads during calendar year 2017, according to the Oklahoma Highway Patrol.
OHP Lt. David Storts, of McAlester, said officers will be out in full force on Sunday night.
“We are calling all troops in,” Storts said. “We are trying to encourage everyone to not drink and drive.”
Storts said the main cause of car accidents involve drugs and alcohol.
“We have seen an increase in drug-related accidents, driving under the influence, speeding and inattentive driving,” Storts said. “We will be focusing on those and enforcing DUI and DUID laws and looking for inattentive driving and speeding to reduce accidents.”
Storts said he has been with the OHP for more than 20 years and he believes people are finally getting the message.
“In the last few years there has been a huge increase in people using a designated driver,” Storts said. “We want to really encourage everyone to keep that up. Hopefully we will have a quite New Year’s Eve.”
Storts said the hardest part of his job is responding to a fatal car accident and having to look up the deceased family member to notify them their loved one was killed.
“There is no easy way to knock on someone’s door in the middle of the night,” Storts said. “We are trying to reduce the amount of times we have to do that through safety education and awareness.”
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