By JOSH NEWTON
Area authorities are once again offering a free ride home to those who celebrate with alcohol on New Year’s Eve.
As is always the case, officers say their offer only extends to those who call for a ride before they get behind the wheel of a car and drive drunk. Those who choose to ignore the offer and instead choose to drink and drive will be given a free ride to jail.
Cherokee County Undersheriff Jason Chennault said deputies will provide county residents with a ride home if they call dispatchers between 10 p.m. Dec. 31 and about 3 a.m. Jan. 1.
Chennault said deputies will take intoxicated residents to their homes within Cherokee County – not to another celebration, home or bar.
“Be responsible,” said Chennault. “You can still have fun and not break the law.”
Those who drink alcohol and need a ride home in the county can call (918) 456-2583.
Tahlequah Police Chief Nate King said his officers are also willing to give those who call a ride home within city limits on New Year’s Eve or early New Year’s day.
“If you need a free ride home, you may have to wait if we have other pressing calls, but we’re going to help those who call us instead of choosing to drink and drive,” said King.
Those who need a ride from TPD officers should call dispatchers at (918) 456-8801.
King and Chennault said their officers will all be on the lookout for intoxicated drivers.
At this point, neither department is planning to set up safety checkpoints over the holiday, but Chennault and King said their officers could assist the Oklahoma Highway Patrol if troopers decide to have a checkpoint.
AAA Oklahoma will also offer its annual Tipsy Tow program, which allows for up to two people per call to catch a free ride home from now until 4 a.m. Jan. 2 around the Tahlequah area. The intoxicated person’s vehicle can also be towed home.
“Over Christmas and New Year’s, up to 40 percent of all traffic crashes involve alcohol,” AAA Oklahoma spokesman Chuck Mai said in a press release.
Mai said more than 200 calls were made during last year’s holiday season, and AAA officials hope more people take advantage this year.
Tipsy Tow is free to AAA members and non-members, and is limited to within a 15-mile radius from the point of pickup Call (800) 222-4357 and ask for a Tipsy Tow home.
Oklahoma Highway Patrol troopers will be out over the holiday watching for drunk drivers.
Some areas of the state will also see a “large scale joint prevention/ enforcement operation” involving troopers and members of the Oklahoma Alcoholic Beverage Laws Enforcement, according to information from the OHP. Troopers are set to hold a press conference on Dec. 30 to announce their holiday enforcement plans.
Where ever local residents end up on New Year’s Eve, authorities say there’s no reason to put lives in danger by drinking and driving.
“If you’re going to drink, drink responsibly,” said King. “Don’t make a poor decision that could affect the rest of your life or someone else’s life.”