More people making wrong call at last call

It's New Year's Eve and you're over the limit. You went out with friends, but they left long ago and now you're faced with a decision: Call a taxi and spend $45 to get home or risk getting pulled over or worse, being involved in a traffic accident while under the influence of alcohol.

The math seems simple in the cold light of day, but the critical ingredient in this cocktail is that you're not exactly rational.

In East Fork Township, the number of people making the choice to get in their car after drinking appears to be increasing.

A quarter of the cases handled by the East Fork Justice Court are related to driving under the influence of either alcohol or another drug, according to Justice of the Peace Jim EnEarl.

The Douglas County Sheriff's Office statistics for driving under the influence arrests confirm that the number of people on the roads after drinking is increasing.

Sgt. Jim Halsey said that 130 more people were arrested by deputies for DUI-related offenses in the last seven months of 2008 than for a similar period in 2007.

"The number of DUIs we're seeing is increasing," EnEarl said. "I don't know why. The penalties are severe."

Drunk drivers with multiple offenses can spend substantial prison time. But, first-timers' lives can be turned upside down by a DUI conviction.

The $892 fine and two days in jail time are just the beginning. Convicts are ordered to attend DUI school, which can cost up to $125 and a victim's impact panel, for $30. The person convicted of DUI loses their license for 90 days, which means they have to get a ride to either of the classes.

EnEarl pointed out that losing driving privileges can result in losing a job.

"There's a good chance you'll be fired if you have to drive for your job," he said. "If you drive a company vehicle, then that's gone. You're individual insurance will go up. Your out-of-pocket at least $1,500. The collateral damage is horrific."

EnEarl said most people who are convicted of a first DUI learn their lesson.

"Most people convicted of DUI never let it happen again," EnEarl said. "But that first-time DUI is a critical event in someone's life."

In a statement issued Tuesday the Automobile Association of America estimated that a first time DUI conviction can cost up to $12,000 in fines, penalties, restitution, legal fees and added insurance expenses.

A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study estimates four times as many people die in alcohol-related crashes on New Year's Eve than other midweek winter evenings.

According to the study, alcohol is a factor in more than 16,000 vehicle crash deaths annually in the United States, and drunk-driving crashes account for about 60 percent of highway deaths of young people age 16 to 24 each year.

The South Tahoe Area Transit Authority will provide fee rides on BlueGO for New Year's Eve.

Starting at 10 p.m., the Kingsbury Express service to Carson Valley, Highway 50, the Bijou line and Ridge Resorts service are free, as are routes 20X, 23, 50 and 53.

BlueGO OnCall will charge normal fares, with reservations 60 minutes in advance.

Routes also will adjust with the crowd in the casino corridor.

The Stateline Transit Center will close at 7 p.m. and riders should transfer between routes on Heavenly Village Way next to Heavenly Village Cinemas and Raleys until 2 a.m. Jan. 1.

This will affect Routes 20X, 21X, 23, 50 and 53. In addition, Routes 20X and 23 will not serve the casinos directly due to increased traffic congestion, so riders should walk to Heavenly Village Way to catch buses.

" For more information, call ( 530) 541- 7149 or check

AAA is offering free tows for drinking drivers 5 miles from home from 6 p.m. until 6 a.m. Thursday. Call (800) 222-4357 and tell the operator you want a tipsy tow.


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