As the holiday season continues into 2017, the California Highway Patrol encourages drivers to begin their New Year with a safe celebration and a designated sober driver, as officers will be on high patrol during a Maximum Enforcement Period from 6:01 p.m. Friday, Dec. 30 to 11:59 p.m. Monday, Jan. 2.
To help cut down those DUI driving rates, AAA of Northern California has also reinstated its annual “Tipsy Tow” program and will take anyone, including those who aren’t AAA members, and their car home for free.
The “Tipsy Tow” program begins at 6 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 31, and lasts until 6 a.m. the next day. To get the free tow, anyone can dial 1-800-222-4357 (AAA-HELP) and tell the operator “I need a ‘Tipsy Tow.’” The truck will be on its way. Free tows are available up to 10 miles.
As friends and family celebrate the New Year’s holiday, all available CHP officers will be on duty during the enforcement period, and will focus on impaired drivers. Officers will also watch for distracted driving, speeding, seat belt violations and drivers in need of help.
During the New Year’s holiday in 2015, 27 people died in collisions on California roadways. Officers arrested more than 920 people during that time for DUI charges.
“Driving while impaired is a crime that seriously risks your safety and the safety of those around you,” CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow said in a release. “If you drive while impaired, you could get arrested or worse - be involved in a traffic collision that causes serious injury or death.”
Pacific Gas and Electric Company has joined with CHP to keep DUI driving to a minimum this year as well.
In addition to fatalities and injuries, more than 1,700 vehicle-caused incidents have caused power outages across PG&E’s 70,000-square-mile service area this year from Eureka to Bakersfield, impacting nearly 693,000 homes and businesses, officials said in a release. These outages can interrupt electric service to important facilities such as hospitals, schools and traffic lights. The average cost for replacing a utility pole damaged in a vehicle-caused incident was more than $10,000 this year.
PG&E is doing its part to reduce the likelihood of motor vehicle accidents, joining other leading companies in prohibiting cell phone use while driving on company time. Employees must pull over to a legal parking spot if they want to take or make a call, check email or text.
Pat Hogan, senior vice president of Electric Transmission and Distribution, asked customers to stay off the phone while driving, even if it’s legal through a hands-free device.
“Distracted driving is 100% preventable,” Hogan said. “Unfortunately an estimated 80% of traffic accidents involve some form of driver distraction. Everyone plays a part in keeping the roads safe – including PG&E, and as a part of our commitment to the communities we serve, we join with the CHP urging motorists to avoid distractions that can lead to serious, even fatal, accidents.”
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reported 40% of traffic-related deaths during the December holidays involve drunk drivers - a 12% increase over the rest of the month.
The CHP urged everyone to plan a safe ride home before parties start, as there are numerous ways to avoid driving while intoxicated, such as hailing a taxi, texting or calling a sober friend or family member, and using public transportation or ride-hailing services such as Uber or Lyft.
“Together, motorists and law enforcement can help make this holiday and every day safe for traveling on California highways,” officials said.
If a vehicle comes into contact with a downed power line, drivers and passengers are urged to stay inside the car, honk the horn, roll down the window to yell for help, warn others to stay away, and dial 911 to wait for assistance.