Drivers — whether they’ve been drinking or not — need to be on their best behavior this weekend. The Pratt Police Department, the Sheriff’s Department and Kansas Highway Patrol will have additional officers on duty during the four-day New Year weekend to make sure everyone has a safe holiday.


Drivers — whether they’ve been drinking or not — need to be on their best behavior this weekend. The Pratt Police Department, the Sheriff’s Department and Kansas Highway Patrol will have additional officers on duty during the four-day New Year weekend to make sure everyone has a safe holiday.

The county has already incurred a record seven vehicle fatalities this year, Sheriff Vernon Chinn said, and he has increased patrols in response. Alcohol was a factor in five of the seven and present in six of the seven.

“If you’ve had a drink there’s not a safe way to drive,” Chinn said, urging “friends to take care of friends.”

Any driving infraction could result in a stop, Chinn said, in an effort to get impaired drivers off the road and everyone home safely. From the very first swallow, alcohol impairs judgment, even a person’s ability to determine if they’re impaired.

“We hope everyone uses common sense and has a designated driver if they’re going to be drinking,” said Detective Jeff Ward. “We don’t want anyone to have to go to jail, but if we run into any driver causing problems we’ll do what we have to do.”

Since Thanksgiving, the Kansas Highway Patrol has displayed red ribbons on agency-owned vehicles to show the agency's zero tolerance policy toward impaired driving and also to memorialize the lives lost due to alcohol-related tragedies.

During New Year’s 2009/2010 there were:

• 559 total crashes;

• 97 injury crashes;

• 1 fatal crash;

• 53 alcohol-related crashes;

• 16 alcohol-related injury crashes;

• And 1 alcohol-related fatal crash.

The Patrol suggests taking the following precautions:

• If you plan to drive, do not drink.

• If you plan to drink, designate a non-drinking driver and give that person your keys.

• Never ride with a driver who has been drinking.

•Take a list of phone numbers with you for cabs or friends to call for a sober ride home.

• If possible, plan to spend the night at the event.

• If you are throwing a party, provide non-alcoholic alternatives, and never let guests drive drunk.

• Report impaired drivers to your local law enforcement agency.

Always buckle up and properly secure children in their safety seats.

Not taking precautions could be life changing, the Patrol emphasizes.