TAVARES – Everybody knows highway patrols will be out in force tonight to crack down on motorists who take the risk and decide to operate under the influence. That’s always an increased risk on a holiday night when people are out drinking and partying to welcome in the new year.

What some driverse may not realize is that if they hit a club, have one beer, and decide to stop drinking and then drive home … they still might be putting themselves, and other people on the highways, at risk.

Can even one drink make the highway look blurry to the driver? Law enforcement says yes, that drinking while buzzed is deadly, too.

“Even if you’re just feeling buzzed, don’t operate a motor vehicle,” said Gabriel White, a deputy with the Lake County Sheriff’s Office.  “You could have one alcoholic beverage and be impaired.”

For the past two weeks, the Lake County Community Traffic Safety Team and the sheriff’s office have been trying to raise public awareness about the dangers of drinking and driving through a media campaign called “Drunk Driving – Over the Limit. Under Arrest.”  The campaign officially ends tomorrow.

Part of the campaign is a new “Buzzed Driving is Drunk Driving” slogan, designed to caution motorists that even one or two drinks can be too many.

A safer option, said Noble Olasimbo, chairman of the Community Traffic Safety Team, would be to stay home or not consume any alcohol if you expect to be on the roads.

“After hearing about the dangers of drinking and driving time after time, most people have gotten the message,” Olasimbo said.  “If they’re planning on drinking, they should always plan a safe way home.”

He also urged parents to “take note that young males were at particularly high risk, with nearly one-quarter admitting to riding with someone who should not have been behind the wheel in the past year.”

This isn’t just a local effort.  The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration’s Ad Council has started a television and Facebook blitz titled “Buzzed Driving is Drunk Driving,” with the tagline, “Getting behind the wheel after even just one too many drinks can lead to disaster.”

A year ago in December 2009, 753 people nationwide were killed in crashes that involved a driver or motorcycle rider with a high blood alcohol concentration of .08 or higher, the Traffic Safety Team notes.

White agreed that people think a motorist needs to be intoxicated before alcohol begins to impair their judgment behind the wheel.

“You don’t have to have a lot to drink,” he said.  “You can be impaired off just one.  It all depends on the person and their height and weight.”

For some people, just one drink at the bar can be one too many.

The Traffic Safety Team is urging people to plan on a safe way of getting home before any of the festivities begin by finding a designated sober driver, calling a taxi, or using public transportation.

Anyone who hasn’t been drinking, and who is driving and spots a drunk driver on the road should call local law enforcement immediately.

 “We know that the holiday season can be one of the deadliest and most dangerous times on America’s roadways due to an increase in drunk driving,” said Sgt. Thomas McKane of the Lake County Sheriff’s Office, and co-chairman of the Community Traffic Safety Team.

“Don’t let your 2010 end in an arrest or worse – death,” he added. “Remember, whether you’ve had way too many or just one too many, it’s not worth the risk.”

For more information on this campaign, log on to www.stopimpaireddriving.org.

Contact us at FreelineOrlando@gmail.com.

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