Tennessee Highway Patrol 'taxi' reminds drivers how to avoid holiday DUI

Tennessee Highway Patrol 'taxi' reminds drivers how to avoid holiday DUI

Law enforcement agencies gather at Hamilton County Jail to warn against drunken driving

December 8th, 2015 by Shelly Bradbury in Local Regional News

A sign comparing the costs of a taxi ride and a DUI conviction is seen on the back window of a Tennessee Highway Patrol vehicle painted to resemble a taxi during a news conference with members of the Chattanooga Police Department, Hamilton County Sheriff's Office and Georgia State Patrol on Monday, Dec. 7, 2015, in Chattanooga, Tenn., discussing DUI enforcement efforts during the holiday season.

Photo by John Rawlston /Times Free Press.

Gallery: Law enforcement agencies warn against drunken driving

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Source: Tennessee Highway Patrol

A cadre of local police descended on the Hamilton County Jail on Monday with one purpose — to warn people not to drink and drive.

Officers from the Tennessee Highway Patrol, the Chattanooga Police Department, Hamilton County Sheriff's Office and Georgia State Patrol gathered in front of the jail to deliver the message.

"There is nothing more tragic in this holiday season than to have one of these officers standing behind me have to knock on a door to tell someone that their loved one is not coming home," Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond said.

The Hamilton County Sheriff's Office has responded to 1,446 traffic crashes in the county so far this year. Of those, 46 drivers were arrested for driving under the influence, according to the sheriff's office.

Troopers have arrested 959 people in 2015 for driving under the influence in the 12-county region the Tennessee Highway Patrol covers around Chattanooga, said Lt. John Harmon. At this point last year, troopers had responded to 211 alcohol-impaired crashes in the region, records show. So far in 2015, there have been 186 such crashes.

That's about a 12 percent reduction in crashes with alcohol-impaired drivers this year, Harmon said. He hopes to keep those numbers low through the holidays.

During the next two weeks, a special Tennessee Highway Patrol car — with the back half of the vehicle painted to look like a taxi — will be roaming the streets of Chattanooga for the first time.

One of only two such cars in the state, the vehicle, emblazoned with the phrase "Booze it and Lose it," is intended to be a pointed reminder that drunken drivers have no business behind the wheel of a car, Harmon said.

"The only ride you're going to get is a ride to the jail," he said, referring to intoxicated drivers.

He and other officers said anyone who drinks alcohol this holiday season should either designate a sober driver or find another safe way home, like in the back of a taxi.

"We want to meet you, but we don't want to meet you on the side of the road," Chattanooga Police Chief Fred Fletcher said. "We do not want to be your ride."

Contact staff writer Shelly Bradbury at 423-757-6525 or sbradbury@timesfreepress.com with tips or ideas.