Anchorage police say they're ramping up enforcement through the holidays thanks to a grant from the Alaska Highway Safety Patrol Office, which provided funding to cover the cost of additional officers Dec. 13 to Jan. 1.
Increased patrols will work the streets of Alaska's largest city on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, as well as New Year's Eve, which falls on a Tuesday. The efforts will be directed toward impaired drivers, according to an Anchorage Police Department press release.
On the first Friday and Saturday night of increased coverage, police issued 14 misdemeanor operating under the influence arrests (police are now referring to all impaired-driving arrests as OUIs), one warrant arrest, one suspended license arrest and 28 additional citations.
First-time OUIs are costly, as drunk drivers generally spend three days behind bars and have their vehicles impounded for nearly a month. Even after they serve time and pay impound fines, their licenses are revoked for 90 days.
"The holiday season is often a whirlwind of fun and festivities, but partygoers are encouraged to plan ahead" and not get behind the wheel of a vehicle if impaired, police spokesperson Dani Myren wrote in the press release.
There are a number of options for Anchorage partygoers this holiday season. The easiest option would be establishing a designated driver. Some local businesses offer free cab vouchers, too.
But say you're reluctant to leave your car behind in a downtown parking lot because, despite your heavy drinking, you're supposed to work the next day. Anchorage Cabaret, Hotel Restaurant and Retailers Association is offering a safer, potentially cheaper option. A total of 45 association members have signed on for the "Off the Road" program. Patrons can ask a bartender or server for off-the-road service, and the business calls a taxi company and sends two drivers. At no cost to the car's owner, one of the cabbies takes the person home while the other follows in their vehicle. If interested, call CHARR at 907-646-4628.
Tow companies are chipping in on the effort to curb drunk driving over the holiday with the Tipsy Tow program. Sponsored by AAA with several local companies are participating, including Vulcan Towing and Greatland Towing, Tipsy Tow offers a free ride home for the impaired individual and his or her vehicle. The program has its limits, however, as those wanting rides need to live within Anchorage, and the tow is only free for 10 miles. Call 1-800-222-4357 to learn more.
Alaska-based soldiers stationed at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson can take advantage of free shuttle service for military personnel and their spouses. Call 384-7433 for a lift.
Contact Jerzy Shedlock at jerzy(at)alaskadispatch.com.