published Saturday, January 5th, 2013

31 DUI arrests reported for New Year's Eve in 16 counties around Chattanooga

The Tennessee Highway Patrol arrested 96 people on suspicion of impaired driving in the 16 counties that participated in "No Refusal" enforcement efforts over the New Year's holiday.

In Hamilton County, 31 were arrested for DUI suspicion and one individual was compelled to take a blood test, according to a THP news release. A total of 48 seat belt citations were issued in Hamilton County.

Twenty-five bar checks were conducted where troopers visited bars in Hamilton County to remind patrons to be careful on the roadway.

"It's awareness and promoting safety," THP Lt. John Harmon of the Chattanooga district said, when asked about the goal of sobriety checkpoints.

The use of the THP hotline, *847, skyrocketed over the holiday period. For the entire Chattanooga 12-county district, 310 calls were received. During the same time period over an extended weekend in December, only 58 calls were received, Harmon said.

The "No Refusal" law allows officers to seek search warrants for blood samples in cases where impaired driving is suspected but suspects refuse to take a Breathalyzer test.

This year's enforcement period ran from 6 p.m. Dec. 28 through New Year's Day. In Hamilton County, there were two sobriety checkpoints and two driver's license checkpoints.

"The locations are picked for safety, traffic conditions -- traffic flow and points where DUIs have been received in the past," Harmon said.

Preliminary reports from the THP indicate that five people were killed in three separate crashes in participating "No Refusal" areas, specifically Hamilton, Knox and Wilson counties. None was alcohol-related.

Statewide, seven people were killed in five crashes during the New Year's Eve period, compared to five vehicular fatalities during last year's period. Two of the vehicle occupants were not wearing seat belts and two were pedestrians.

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