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One drunken-driving arrest on New Year's Eve did not mean there were no other drunken drivers to arrest, police said today.
"We had several calls from people on the road reporting people they thought were drunk drivers," said Police Sgt. Jerry Nankervis. "The ones we caught up with and stopped ended up not being drunk, just bad drivers. There were others though that were called in that we went out looking for the vehicles and couldn't locate them."
Police reported only one drunken-driving arrest for New Year's Eve 2001 and only one on New Year's Day. Two drunken-driving arrests were reported last year New Year's Eve, according to police records. The number of alcohol-related incidents went from 11 last year to nine this year.
Police Capt. Tom Porter said the department doubled the amount of patrol officers typically out on a Tuesday night to keep on eye on the roads.
"On a typical day we'll staff five or six officers but that night we had 12 plus a lieutenant," Porter said. "And obviously it was justified since there was enough going on to keep 12 officers busy that night."
Nankervis said he saw evidence of potential drunk-driving accidents New Year's Eve, including several fresh skid marks on the road where vehicles slid into guardrails in incidents that went unreported. Last year, no alcohol-related accidents were reported on the holiday and only one reported this year.
Nankervis said there could be several reasons for the decrease in drunken-driving arrests this year, including more designated drivers behind the wheel and the deterrent of a lower blood-alcohol limit imposed earlier this year.
"Since legally drunk is now 0.08 instead of 0.1, people may be less likely to want to chance driving if they think they might be over," he said.
However, he also said due to the unusually high domestic-violence incidents, which included six arrests New Year's Eve, his officers were keeping busy in homes instead of on the road.
"Unfortunately because there were so many other calls that we had to go out for there was less of us on the road," he said. "I think we did what we could but I wish we could have watched for it (drunken driving) more."
Porter said whatever the reason for the decline, he hopes it's the beginning of a positive trend but remains cautious.
"It's just too soon to tell," Porter said. "But I do think this year the decrease was a testament to people being more responsible and we're looking at that as a positive thing."
Melanie Plenda can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.