State and local law enforcement officials are urging Putnam County residents to exercise caution this New Year's Eve, a night that Indiana State Police Capt. George Schneider says completes the holiday road hazard trifecta -- alcohol, excessive speed and slick roads.
Data released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows that from 2001-05 an average of 36 fatalities occurred per day on America's roadways as a result of alcohol related crashes. During the Christmas period, that number increased to 45 deaths per day, and jumps to 54 over the New Year's holiday.
To combat highway hazards this New Year's Eve, local law enforcement officers are pledging to turn out, in force, to patrol the roads of Putnam County.
"We will have saturated driving under the influence patrols," said Schneider. "Police will be targeting car safety violations such as speeding, following too close, seatbelt violations and proper child restraints."
According to Schneider, the Indiana State Police received federal grant money to pay additional troopers to work the holiday, there will be a zero tolerance policy on seatbelt infractions and, "impaired drivers will be dealt with accordingly," he said.
Both the Greencastle Police Department and the Putnam County Sheriff's department told the BannerGraphic that they too will be beefing up their presence on the roads this New Year's Eve.
"We've been lucky in recent years," said Chief Deputy Virgil Lanning of the Putnam County Sheriff's Department. "People know that we're out there. Hopefully they will think twice about getting behind the wheel."
Schneider, acknowledging that Putnam County has not seen a spike in alcohol related death in recent years, credits the joint efforts of law enforcement agencies and organizations like Mothers Against Drunk Driving (M.A.D.D.) for getting the word out about drunk driving.
"Today, it's not socially acceptable to drive under the influence, but it took 25 years to do it," said Schneider. "We as a society should not rest until we get down to zero."
Schneider says that the safest thing to do over the holiday season is to buckle-up and if you are going to drink, get a designated driver.