WESTFIELD, NJ - Drink all you want at your next holiday party—just don’t plan to drive home if you want to avoid losing your license or paying a high fine. New Jersey cops are especially on the lookout for intoxicated drivers from now until Jan. 2, and no one is getting off with just a warning.
This is the message of New Jersey’s Division of Traffic and Public Safety’s “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” campaign. This time of year, New Jersey police utilize additional sobriety checkpoints, saturation patrols and even undercover officers to keep a keen eye out for anyone who attempts to drive under the influence.
Using a $5,000 grant from the New Jersey Division of Highway Safety, the Westfield Police Department hired extra cops to patrol the streets for intoxicated drivers from Dec. 5 until Jan. 2, according to Chief of Police John Parizeau. This grant has been awarded to Westfield several years in a row and allows the department to add an additional 100 man hours dedicated solely to catching drunk drivers.
Westfield police have caught drunk drivers from all over. “A lot of our arrests over the years weren’t just Westfield people. It’s people driving through Westfield,” explained Parizeau.
Although not every New Jersey police department received a grant, you can bet they are paying special attention this month. “We take drunk driving very seriously, of course, and we’re very vigilant during the holidays,” said Millburn Police Lieutenant Peter Eakley. He would rather not catch anyone in the act, he said. “We’d rather people don’t do it.”
If caught driving while impaired, said Eakley, “You’re going to be arrested. You’re going to police headquarters.” If your blood alcohol level is still over the legal limit and no one can pick you up, you could even spend the night in jail. It’s not the end to a festive evening that one would hope for.
“I’m glad they’re cracking down on it,” said Millburn resident Susan Golinski. “I don’t like to go out at night during the holidays because I’m afraid of drunk drivers.”
Even after the New Year, Golinski worries about people driving under the influence, especially on weekends. “I think they should do this year round, not just during the holidays,” she said of the crackdown.
According to New Jersey’s Department of Law and Public Safety, someone in America is killed by an impaired driver every 30 seconds—almost 50 people each day. That number increases during the holidays.
Parizeau hopes that the additional risk of getting caught will discourage people from getting behind the wheel when they’ve had one too many. “Losing your license can affect your job and your family. It’s not worth it,” he said.
To avoid needlessly breaking the law and endangering lives, the New Jersey Division of Highway Traffic Safety offers these suggestions:
- Don't risk it. If you plan to drive, don't drink.
- Choose a sober designated driver before partying.
- Take mass transit, a taxicab or ask a friend to drive you home if you didn't plan in advance.
- Spend the night where the activity is being held.
- Report impaired drivers to law enforcement.