Don’t be a Scrooge and drive drunk this Christmas: Here’s what police are looking out for
You better not pout, you better not cry -- you better not drink and drive, there's a few reasons why.
It should seem obvious why including everyone's health and safety but if for some reason, that's not enough, here are a few things police are paying attention to over the next few weeks as Christmas and other holiday parties and New Year's celebrations take place as well as ways you can avoid getting in trouble or worse.
1. What are the signs of drunk driving?
When planning out your night ahead going to and from a Christmas or other holiday party, it's important to put together a plan of what sober individual will be doing the driving.
For those who clearly shouldn't be driving, there are certain behaviors that drunk drivers exhibit and may not even know if -- but police see it -- and for your safety and everyone else's, they need to pull you over.
"If you were to categorize it in a more general perspective, (police) look for the erratic driver, they look for the unsafe operation. To get more specific and break it down, you're (police) are looking for individuals, believe it or not, that are either driving too fast so speeding or too slow for the speed limit, you're also looking for individuals that have the inability to maintain the lane," Marlboro Township Police Chief Peter Pezzullo tells Townsqure Media News. "They (the driver) may not be swerving as drastically as you might think, most people assume that when they see commercials or TV show that involve that type of depiction, they're looking at someone whose really drastically swerving from curb to curb. Police officers are looking for subtle operation and it could just be swerving toward the middle line a couple of times and driving at a speed that's too slow or too fast."
Chief Pezzullo adds that police also look out for things like a driver not having their lights on, using directionals (turn signals) or stopping/paying attention to road signs.
"It could be a stop sign or a yield sign or even a stop light for that matter -- if these individuals are failing to observe those things, that would typify that maybe they might be under the influence," Pezzullo said.
2. How Police will handle a potential drunk driving motor vehicle stop.
If you are pulled over for exhibiting any of the signs above or something else and know that you've been drinking, there's a few ways police can confirm that which includes the odor on a drivers breath.
"A great deal goes into it, we don't just immediately stop a vehicle, ask someone to step out of their vehicle and then perform psychophysicals -- whether it be walking a straight line or touching their finger to their nose, things of that nature," Pezzullo said. "Before we get to that point, we obviously need operation, we need someone to alert the officer that they may be under the influence and then from that stage we do make a motor vehicle stop, we approach the driver, we would ask the driver some basic questions just to get an idea of where they're going, where they've come from, if they did happen to leave a party or a dinner (or) an establishment that serves alcohol -- we would ask how many alcoholic beverages they did consume throughout the evening, did they eat."
Police will then take into account what they can see and smell including the whiff of alcohol and listening to how the driver speaks and answers.
"They might have a hard time digesting the questions that we're asking or responding to those questions. They might be fumbling, they have the inability or dexterity to handle their license -- even how they might have stopped the vehicle," Pezzullo said. "If we go to pull somebody over and they just stop right smack dab in the middle of the road, that might typify somebody who doesn't have their whits about them."
From there, if the situation warrants it, the officer will ask the driver to step out of the vehicle and ask them to perform certain tests/psychophysicals.
3. Find a Designated Driver:
"When we look at family parties or get togethers and things of the nature for the holidays, first and foremost, everybody discusses designated drivers and that's usually the route we recommend people utilize finding someone in the family or amongst your friend groups and someone that you trust that's going to be safe and not drink and that individual would drive, obviously to and from the party," Pezzullo said.
Now in the advent of ride sharing services like Uber and Lyft, Chief Pezzullo also recommends utilizing one of those services as well.
"There's nothing wrong with spending a little bit of extra cash to make sure that you get home safely during the holiday season," Pezzullo said.
By making the decision not to drive while under the influence of alcohol and leaving that up to a sober family member, friend or ride share driver, you're also helping yourself with regards to making less critical decisions when you shouldn't be making them.
"It's something that I think more and more people should be thinking of those things prior to going out, prior to saying 'I'm going to drive from Point A to Point B and have to restrain myself'," Pezzullo said. "This way you can go, enjoy your friends, enjoy your family and know that you have a ride coming to get you."
However, many people taking advantage of the ride sharing opportunities in this day and age are the younger crowds.
"We're seeing a trend where a lot of our younger -- the 21-22 year old individuals -- they're the ones who seem to be more apt to utilizing the Uber and the Lyft because it's what they know and I applaud them because they understand the value behind staying safe and not doing something to harm themselves or someone else on the road," Pezzullo said.
4. For the Sober Driver, there are things you can do to help.
If you are sober and happen to be driving on a given road day or night and see someone not driving properly for any number of the reasons listed above in this story, you should, when safe to do so, call police and report it.
"We don't want these drivers to be unsafe when contacting the police department or calling 911 but we would ask that they call 911 using bluetooth and hands-free type stuff letting us know the description of the vehicle, if they were able to see the license place -- the license plate, the direction of travel...so that way, we could respond to the area and see if we can perform a motor vehicle stop," Pezzullo said.
You may have all the information and eyewitness testimony to report an unsafe driver, but police still have to check things out to verify what's going on.
"We wouldn't just drive out there and stop the vehicle, we have to drive out there and the officer, once again, would have to observe operation and confirm that this individual is driving in such a nature that would leave us to believe that they're driving under the influence," Pezzullo said.
Police also ask that you don't take matters into your own hands if you see such a driver.
"We don't want them to be the police, we don't want them to pursue somebody at a close range where it would be unsafe for them because if the individual is intoxicated and they did something illegal or unsafe, it can cause those traveling behind them to get into an accident," Pezzullo said. "We'd rather them get the information they need, increase that following distance, so slow down a bit, maybe change lanes, get away from that individual and then make the call to the police department."