By NATHAN GREGORY
Safety is stressed for motorists in the Starkville area on New Year’s Eve and Day, not only by city, county and state law enforcement, but also local taxi services.
Lane Etheridge, owner of local taxi service Bulldog Cab Co., said although business has been slow this month, he believes he’ll see a noticeable increase in customers on New Year’s Eve because of people who have been celebrating and are not capable of driving.
“We anticipate it picking up considerably. Every year New Year’s Eve is a night when we do a lot of business, not only because enforcement is out more than usual looking for drinking and driving, but because some don’t want to have to worry about how they’re going to get home,” Etheridge said. “We have services pre-scheduled for people who have called in early, and we’ll be open all day and night until the phone stops ringing. It will be like a typical football home game weekend for us.”
McClain Taxi owner Delvin McClain said he also anticipates a spike in business tonight.
“It’s usually pretty busy on New Year’s Eve. Hopefully that will be the case again this year,” McClain said. “In the past, people have been good about calling us to get them where they want to go instead of drinking and driving. We want to thank the ones who are safe and give us business.”
While local taxi services will be busy making sure people celebrating the new year get home safely, local law enforcement will be busy making sure safety isn’t being compromised by those who attempt to drive under the influence.
Mississippi Highway Patrol Master Sgt. Chuck Dawkins said the main procedure which will be taken to ensure safety on the roadways for motorists will be to have extra troopers working on their days off alongside those who are scheduled to work.
“We’ll have nine extra troopers in addition to who we already have working normally,” Dawkins said. “We’ll also have a DUI enforcement truck with two Intoxilyzers set up. This will enable us to go into rural areas.”
Dawkins said using common sense is the best policy for deciding whether or not it is a good idea to get behind the wheel.
“(Those traveling should) be smart. Use a designated driver or stay at the place where you’re celebrating,” he said. “We have zero-tolerance policy. If you get caught, you get locked up. It would be a bad way to start a new year.”
Oktibbeha County Sheriff Dolph Bryan said there will be an increased presence of law enforcement throughout the county checking for drivers under the influence.
“As with each New Year’s Eve, we’re going to be out in force looking for drunk drivers and trying to keep the roads as safe as we possibly can,” Bryan said. “My advice is to have a designated driver, as we’ll be all over the county into the night.”
Starkville Police Department Master Sgt. and DUI specialist Shawn Word said SPD plans to step up its presence on city streets to make sure roads are safe.
“The bypasses are going to have more traffic because of the time of year. There will be more patrol on the locations where you see more traffic during holidays,” Word said Dec. 23. “We want people to be wearing their seat belts and remembering not to drink before driving.”