Manatee, Sarasota law enforcement warn against drunken driving on Super Bowl Sunday

Special to the HeraldJanuary 30, 2014 

Polo Mogul Charged

A car destroyed in a drunken-driving crash sits outside a courthouse in West Palm Beach, where it was displayed as evidence in a manslaughter trial on March, 15, 2012.ASSOCIATED PRESS


Local law enforcement officials want people to be careful this weekend because with all the food and fun, there's one thing the Super Bowl also brings out -- drunken drivers.

Local police departments and sheriff's offices know there may be more drunken drivers on roads because of the Super Bowl, but they aren't changing the Sunday routine much.

On Sunday in Bradenton, two officers will look for impaired drivers, said Warren Merriman, deputy chief of the Bradenton Police Department.

"Historically, people do like to go out and enjoy the game, and we just want to make sure people are safe on the roadways," he said.

The Manatee County Sheriff's Office won't add extra deputies for the weekend, said spokesman Dave Bristow. He said Super Bowl Sunday is normally a quiet day for deputies.

Genevieve Judge, Sarasota Police Department spokeswoman, said the Sarasota Police Department isn't adding any extra officers to patrol Sunday night, but the department is still con

cerned about drunken drivers. She said people who are going to drink during the game should plan to have a designated driver, call a friend or have the phone number to a taxi service.

Judge said AAA and Bud Light are co-sponsoring a free "Tow To Go" service starting at 6 a.m. Friday to Monday. A tow truck will take two people and a vehicle within a 10-mile radius to a safe location, said Joanna Newton, program manager. The program covers all major holidays in Florida, Georgia and Tennessee, she said.

Newton said the service was inspired by a Palmetto tow truck driver who had to tow vehicles from a deadly drunken-driving collision.

The driver, Steve White of Steve White's Auto Service, offered a similar service for years before AAA modeled the current program after White's, she said.

You don't have to be a AAA member to use the service, which can be reached at 1-855-286-9246.

Even with all of the resources for impaired drivers, Super Bowl Sunday is still the second-deadliest time for drunken-driving deaths, according to the Mothers Against Drunk Driving blog.

For the 2012 Super Bowl, 43 percent of all traffic fatalities involved alcohol, compared with the yearly average of 31 percent, according to the blog.

"DUIs are expensive and life altering for all persons involved," Merriman said.

The fine for a person's first drunken-driving offense is between $500 and $1,000 with a maximum of six months in jail, he said. For a second offense, the fine ranges from $1,000 to $2,000 with a jail sentence of up to nine months.

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