‘It works’: Law enforcement shares tried and true travel suggestions for safe New Year’s Eve

MADISON, Wis. – While the weather looks clear for New Year’s Eve, determining a safe ride is likely top of mind for other reasons.

The odds of getting in a car crash increase on the holiday. Each year, authorities stress how important it is to avoid drinking and driving. They say it’s because simple suggestions work.

“New Year’s Eve is notoriously known as the deadliest holiday,” said Detective Robb Hale of the Town of Madison Police Department.

In Hale’s 27 years in law enforcement, he’s worked a New Year’s Eve or two. Holiday or not, he’s seen the impacts alcohol can have.

“It is very serious,” Hale said. “Drinking and driving has repercussions that impact the community.”

Hale still feels the memory of one pedestrian who had been drinking before walking across part of the two mile stretch of Beltline covered by the Town.

“They were hit by a car early in the morning, which left the pedestrian paralyzed from the neck down,” Hale said. “That was because of drinking. That one really sticks out.”

It sticks with him as others plan to ring in the new year.

“There’s a lot of alcohol, celebration. People are happy. They tend to drink a lot. That tends to be a little hard on the community and policing in itself,” Hale said. “We want to be sure everyone has a safe and healthy new year.”

His suggestions are to stay off the road completely if you can and stay away from alcohol if you’ll be behind the wheel.

“Even if you’re not going to drink, you have to be aware there will be other people who won’t make that same sound decision, which is unfortunate. The best thing is always to stay home or go home early,” Hale said. “The one guarantee is to not drink. It’s not about getting caught by law enforcement and getting a DUI ticket. It’s about keeping you and everybody safe.”

For those who do plan on going out drinking, Hale suggests planning on a designated driver, which are now easier than ever to secure.

“Uber, Lyft, taxi services: You’re pretty much assured those drivers are going to be sober,” he said, adding that there’s a reason these suggestions are tried and true.

“It has to work. Just think of how many have taken (safe-ride options) and avoided accidents. We won’t know because they’ve taken those safety precautions. You can only assume it works, they got home safe,” he said. “Any time you got home safe, you know it works.”

The Dane County Sheriff’s Office is asking drivers to plan ahead for New Year’s Eve, saying in a release that law enforcement will be keeping a close eye out on the holiday.

“For many years, drinking and driving was an acceptable habit in Wisconsin,” the release said. “But tougher laws and increased enforcement are making some drivers change their habits.”

The most recent statistics in Wisconsin match those nationally, suggesting that drunk driving crashes are on a downward trend, but they still claim the lives of more than 10,000 annually.

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