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Need a designated driver this New Year's? Orem police have you covered

(Derek Petersen, KSL TV, File)



Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

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OREM — Law enforcement across the country traditionally send out extra officers to patrol roads and nab drunk drivers each New Year’s holiday.

While that will remain the same as Utahns ring in 2018, the Orem Police Department is taking another approach this year in an effort to stop drunk drivers from reaching the road in the first place.

The department is rolling out an idea known as the “Orem Police Drunk Tank Taxi” that will provide free rides for intoxicated residents in need of a safe way home Saturday and Sunday, according to Orem Police Lt. Craig Martinez.

The department announced its designated driver plan in a humorous Facebook post Tuesday, though the plan itself is no joke.

The department will convert their prisoner transport van into a taxi service, picking up and dropping off residents within a 15-mile radius in the Orem area from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. on each night leading in the early hours of 2018, Martinez said. Those looking for a designated driver will be able to contact Orem police dispatch to request a ride.

Orem police plan to release a number and a social media hashtag Friday that those in need of a ride can use.

“We’re going to have two of our officers working overtime those two nights (and) literally their only job is to pick up and drop off people who don’t have designated drivers,” Martinez said.

Nearly 2,000 alcohol-related driver crashes occurred in Utah during 2016, according to Department of Highway Safety data. Of those, 1,220 resulted in injuries and 36 resulted in death, a decline from 2014 and 2015. About 43 percent of alcohol-related crashes happened on a weekend.

However, traffic deaths on New Year’s have been relatively low compared to other holidays, according to the highway department’s statistics. The idea behind Orem police’s idea is to keep it that way.

Orem Police Department’s Facebook post Tuesday generated positive reactions from residents to others who wrote in from other areas across the country applauding the move.

“We're all glad you are offering to drive our friends and loved ones home, so we're all safer on the road,” one user wrote.

“This is actually so freaking cool. I hope people take advantage of this,” wrote another.

Another stipulation the department mentioned in the post is that officers will take selfies with those who use the service. Police aren’t jesting with that either.

“We’re going to take pictures because we want to interact with the public and we want to show kind of the good things our officers do every day,” Martinez said, “and we want to make it a fun night for everybody.”

Contributing: Mary Richards

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