Police eyeing drunken drivers

Many people get caught breaking law during holidays

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— The holidays are a time when people go out and have a good time, but that fun can lead to an unwelcome trip to the Routt County Jail.

Last year between Christmas Eve and New Year's Day, a total of 21 people were booked into the county's detention facility. Of those arrests, 15 were for people who were caught behind the wheel drunk.

Law enforcement officials are once again gearing up to crack down on drunken drivers to keep the highways and roads in the county safe.

"'Tis the season for holiday parties," Sheriff John Warner said of why so many people get caught driving drunk this time of the year.

Of the 15 arrests last year, two people were arrested on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

As New Year's Day approached last year, the number of drunken-driving arrests stayed consistent. Five people were arrested between Dec. 26 and Dec. 30. However, the number of drunken-driving arrests increased dramatically on one the biggest party days of the year.

Four people were arrested for driving under the influence on New Year's Eve, and four more drivers were arrested Jan. 1, 2001.

"People better not drink and drive because they will go to jail," Warner said. "We have zero tolerance.

"Because of the fatalities and accidents that occur during the holidays, we do increase or patrols."

Drinking and driving is an all-too-familiar crime for law enforcement officials in the county. Despite the state's strict laws, people continue to drink and drive.

Colorado has one of the lowest alcohol thresholds among the 50 states. A person with a blood-alcohol content of 0.05 can be arrested for driving while ability impaired.

A person with a blood-alcohol content higher than 0.05 faces the state's more serious violation driving under the influence.

Warner, who has been the sheriff for close to 10 years, is frustrated with the number of motorists that are arrested for the crime here.

Warner is so frustrated with the situation he told of a story that involved an arrest outside a Christmas party the night of Dec. 15, 2001.

One of Warner's deputies, who was on duty for the party for Routt County employees, was arriving at the party at a hotel at the base of the Steamboat Ski Area when he noticed an intoxicated driver in the parking lot.

"This person, who was at another Christmas party, had the nerve to drive home," Warner said. "Inside the hotel were more than 200 county employees, and this person decided to drive."

The deputy arrested the driver in the parking lot.

"Instead of my deputy being able to enjoy dinner, he had to go back to the jail," he said. "It ruined his dinner."

Warner is hopeful that during the holidays, tourists and residents in town will utilize the free bus service or call a taxi.

"When people drink, they don't make good decisions," he said. "If you are going to go out and have a rip-roaring good time, take the bus or a taxi."

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