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West Tennessee Authorities Look to Curb Drunk Driving

By Natalie Potts
By npotts@wbbjtv.com

MADISON COUNTY, Tenn. - West Tennessee authorities said they are looking to stop drunk driving over the New Year's holiday.

Friday afternoon kicked off the weekend's increased patrol efforts by several different law enforcement agencies in Tennessee.

Officers said they are gearing up to increase their forces against impaired driving to try and avoid fatalities and heartaches over the holiday season.

"For me I've knocked on too many doors and had to notify too many people that their loved ones weren't coming home," said Sergeant Joseph Gill, with the Madison County Sheriff's Department. "So that's my motivation, you know, it's tough to look a mother in the eye and tell them their child isn't coming home because they have been killed by a drunk driver."

Sgt. Gill told WBBJ 7 Eyewitness News that officers will be setting up several sobriety checkpoints, bar checks and ID checks over the weekend.

Departments are increasing the number of officers on patrol who will watch high risk areas where fatalities have happened before.

So far this year to date there have been 1,002 fatalities on Tennessee Highways. That is up from last year's record low number 933 in 2011.

Tennessee Highway Patrol also reported that there were 5 deaths in vehicle related crashes over last year's New Year's holiday.

The high number of fatalities is one reason why Sheriff Brian Duke, of Henderson County, said he is going the extra mile to keep residents safe. The Henderson County Sheriff's Department is offering residents sober rides home through the holiday.

"There has been times in the past where we've encountered stuff that absolutely does break your heart. They have options on New Year's Eve, one is to call us and we will take them home, no strings attached. It's strictly a ride home," said Sheriff Duke. "We want to make sure everyone rings in the New Year safely, so call us for a ride."

This New Year's holiday, there are 16 counties participating in the "No Refusal" weekend, which allows officers to legally take a mandatory blood alcohol test.

If you are suspected of drinking and driving in West Tennessee, the Tennessee Highway Patrol is partnering with Chester and Carroll Counties in the "No Refusal" Act.

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