Leaders hope to curb DUIs before New Year's Eve

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WICHITA, Kan — The New Year is almost here, but it can be a dangerous time on the road.

Law enforcement agencies plan to amp up patrols for the holiday to combat drunk driving.

Early Monday morning, officers, sheriff’s deputies and local leaders met to demonstrate the dangers of drunk driving at the 19th annual Don’t Drink and Drive show.

“We've been drinking for an hour now. I've had four beers. I was at .035. The legal limit is .08,” said Cliff Miller, a volunteer drinker for the event. “I would say probably right now that I would not be a safe driver.”

Miller, a former Sergeant with the Sedgwick Co. Sheriff’s Office, said in his 36 years in law enforcement, DUIs were a constant battle.

“I don't have anything against social drinking,” Miller said. “I think that it's a fun thing and it helps people get together, but there's methods of doing that properly.”

He supports the demonstration, created to showcase the difficulty of driving after having a few drinks.

“It’s life-changing,” said defense attorney Danny Saville, who organized Don’t Drink and Drive. “You still have legal expenses. Now you have breath test interlock that you have to have on our car. It's just a lot of money and a lot of hassle.”

IN 2012, more than 13,000 arrests were made for drunk driving in the State of Kansas.

The biggest problem? Repeat offenders, said Ken Kooser, a detective with the Sedgwick Co. Sheriff’s Office.

During his 11 years with the county, he said he’s seen his fair share of intoxicated drivers.

He’s pulled over one driver on three separate occasions. That person has had about 17 DUIs.

Yet, he said the situation is not hopeless.

“It's just a matter of them buying into the education and understanding and sometimes it takes hitting rock bottom to realize they need help,” Kooser said.

One drink may be one too many.

Currently, it’s illegal for a driver to have a blood alcohol level of .08 or higher.

Kooser said that you can still get a DUI if you are below that level — if you have had anything to drink and are an impaired in any capacity.

When it comes to celebrating this New Year’s Eve, Kooser said people need to have a designated driver to take them home safely — to protect everyone on the road.

“I’ve seen good people have their lives completely changed by drinking and driving,” he said. “Their lives ruined. The people they hurt or killed and their family’s lives ruined.”

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