New Year's is popular night for OVI arrests

NEWARK -- Tonight, New Year's Eve revelers will be celebrating the end, or the renewal, of the calendar year. However, state data shows about 200 people will be lamenting the beginning of a costly court case on Jan. 1.

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The Ohio Highway Patrol makes three times more arrests for drunken driving on New Year's Eve than on a normal day, according to patrol data.

An average of 196 people have been cited for operating a vehicle while intoxicated by state law enforcement during the past three holidays.

In Licking County, four drivers were caught impaired behind the wheel a year ago and nine others spent the first hours of 2008 and 2007 in the Licking County Justice Center for OVI allegations, the patrol reported.

The county followed the state's decline in OVI arrests affected by troopers in 2009. With nearly complete 2009 state data, drunken-driving citations in Licking County fell by about 5 percent from the year before.

OVI citations issued statewide by the patrol were off last year's pace by about 4.5 percent as of Dec. 23, according to the agency.

Ohio also is looking to continue the slide in drunken-driving fatalities experienced from 2007 to 2008, according to a report released this month by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Data gathered by the federal agency shows that 30 percent of people killed on Ohio roads last year (356 of 1,190 deaths) were involved in an alcohol-related crash. That means at least one driver in the crash had a blood-alcohol content above .08. That was down about 1 percent from 2007, according to the administration.

But as much as any other celebration-heavy holiday, patrol Sgt. Raymond Durant said troopers are preparing for a busy shift.

"It is elevated beyond your normal weekend night because of what the new year represents to a lot of people and what they do to bring it in," he said.

No plans for checkpoints had been made known to headquarters as of Wednesday morning, Durant said, but strategies and manpower will be individual decisions by commanders at the patrol's 55 posts.

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