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Sheriff's Office on Lookout for Impaired New Year's Eve Drivers

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Wilson County Sheriff's Office plans to saturate the county to find and arrest impaired drivers over the New Year's Eve holiday to ensure everyone is safe on Wilson County roads.

"We take DUI seriously every day but especially during the holidays when some people tend to over-indulge," Sheriff Robert Bryan said. "We want to make sure the holiday is safe not only for our families and friends but for everyone passing through our county."

Wilson County Sheriff's Cpl. Ray Justice, the office's DUI coordinator charged with training officers to recognize impaired drivers, scheduling coverage for special holidays and grant writing, said there will be several well-trained officers in search of DUI offenders.

"We will be out in all areas of the county working to identify those who are potentially impaired," Justice said. "We will pay special attention to those areas where we've had a high number of accidents and DUI arrests."

Justice is one of the few drug recognition experts in the state. He is trained to recognize the ever-growing problem of drug-impaired driving symptoms. "We've had a 40 percent increase in drug-impaired drivers during the daylight hours since last year," he said. "Those are prescription drugs, not just street drugs."

The sheriff's office has a $50,000 overtime grant from the Tennessee Government's Highway Safety Office that is used to pay officers time-and-a-half on special holidays in search of dangerous and impaired driving. Part of the money goes to pay for a radar trailer that tracks and records the speed of passing motorists.

"We generally have two to three DUI arrests a week," Justice said. "But that number rises every year along with the traffic and population growth. We are the 12th-largest populated county, and the traffic increases each day."

Although New Year's Eve is often perceived as the most likely time someone will drive impaired, Justice noted that is not the case. "People have gotten so much better about not drinking and driving on New Year's Eve, and I think they are starting to get the message that Sheriff Bryan is committed to keeping the roads safe," he said, adding that Super Bowl Sunday, St. Patrick's Day and Cinco de Mayo are when more people are arrested for DUI.

"If volunteers are kind enough to offer a free Safe Ride program," Justice said, "we are out for those who lack the good judgment to take advantage of that service."

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