With the New Year holiday comes family gatherings, parties, business get-togethers and other annual festivities. It is these types of happenings that result in an increase in DUI (driving under the influence) incidents, according to Wyoming County Sheriff Randall Aliff.

Chief Deputy C.S. Parker cautions those attending gatherings or other social functions where alcohol will be served to name a designated driver, someone who won’t drink during the festivities and can safely drive afterwards.

“We try to warn people they should choose a designated driver beforehand,” Aliff said.

“We’ll be out watching for impaired drivers.”

Parker also warns all drivers should be cautious, looking out for other drivers who may not maintain control of their vehicles.

Driving defensively could save someone’s life, he said.

The Wyoming Sheriff’s Department is enforcing all traffic laws through the holiday period, Aliff emphasized.

As part of the Governor’s Highway Safety program, law enforcement will be looking for an array of violations, Parker noted.

Those violations include DUI, reckless driving, child safety, seat belts, driving suspended, school zones, he explained.

Grant funding, through the state-funded program, provides money for overtime hours for officers while they patrol roads to increase safety for the motoring public.

“We have deputies on the roads all over the county,” Aliff emphasized.

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While a breathalyzer will reveal alcohol levels in the blood stream, it is only one of a series of tests that can prove the driver is impaired, Aliff explained.

Field sobriety tests can determine the coordination and stability levels of the driver.

Currently the legal limit for determining intoxication is .08, Parker explained. The limit is .02 for those under 18 years of age.

The amount of alcohol it takes to make someone drunk depends on height and weight as well as tolerance levels, Aliff explained.

Law enforcement officers do not have to prove a driver is drunk, but merely impaired, Aliff explained.

Prescription medications can have the same effect as alcoholic beverages. Those prescriptions carry warnings, Aliff noted.

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Any DUI offense carries a mandatory jail sentence, loss of driver’s license, and a fine.

The first offense carries a 24-hour jail sentence, loss of license for up to six months and a fine between $100 and $500, Parker said.

The second offense carries a six-month to one-year jail sentence, loss of license for up to 10 years, and a fine ranging from $500 to $1,000.

The third offense carries a one- to three-year jail sentence because it’s a felony, sometimes permanent loss of the driver’s license, and a fine ranging from $1,000 to $3,000.

However, those convicted of the third offense can re-apply for their driver’s license after 10 years, according to officials.

While the stiff sentences may deter some, Aliff said, there are always those who don’t seem to mind spending time in jail.

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