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Drinking? Better not drive, police say

Area law enforcement doesn’t want 2016 to go out with a bang.

Troopers with Mississippi Highway Patrol, deputies with Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office and officers with the Brookhaven Police Department will be on the lookout for impaired drivers New Year’s Eve and into the morning hours of 2017.

Local police and deputies will also be watching for fireworks. They’re not allowed in the city, but it’s not against the law in the county.

“Fireworks won’t be tolerated at all,” Brookhaven Police Chief Bobby Bell said. “We’re expecting a lot of calls on it. We deal with that every year.”

Bell said fireworks this time of year are a fire hazard because of the dry leaves on the ground and on roof tops where still-burning fireworks can land.

Parents are encouraged not to purchase fireworks for their children, Bell said, adding that parents will be held accountable if their children are caught shooting fireworks in the city limits. “We’re asking parents not to let their children shoot fireworks,” he said.

Bell said parents can face fines or even jail time for contributing to the delinquency of a minor if their children are caught breaking the law.

In the county, deputies ask that people to use common sense.

“We just ask that children be supervised by an adult if they’re shooting them,” Lincoln County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Johnny Hall said.

He said people should never shoot fireworks at each other or at buildings. There’s no time limits for shooting fireworks, but people should use courtesy if they have neighbors close by.

Both Brookhaven police and Lincoln County deputies will step up patrols Saturday night to get impaired drivers off the roads. “Our main concern is protecting the citizens of Brookhaven over the holidays,” Bell said.

They plan to set up a few roadblocks to catch individuals driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

It’s not just those under the influence they’re looking for. Citations will also be issued to anyone with an open container or beer or alcohol in their vehicle. “You can buy it, but you can’t have it open in your vehicle at all.”

The city is wet, but the county is dry, so it’s not only illegal to have an open container of beer or liquor, but it’s a crime to be in possession of it open or closed, Hall said.

Bell suggests that anyone who plans to drink Saturday night should have a designated driver committed before the drinking begins. “We will be out here and we will be observing the way people drive,” he said.

The state Highway Patrol’s New Year’s Enforcement Period starts Saturday at 6 p.m. and will conclude Sunday at 11:59 p.m.

Troopers will be conducting multiple safety checkpoints at various locations in order to remove impaired drivers from the roadways, said Capt. Johnny Poulos, director of public affairs for the MHP.

During the same time last year, troopers investigated 79 vehicle crashes but recorded zero fatalities on state, federal highways and interstate systems.

“If plans include alcohol, please designate a sober driver before festivities start,” Poulos said. “No one should begin 2017 with being arrested, facing medical bills, legal fees, and perhaps losing their job. If loss of life occurs due to an impaired driver, people pay the price for the rest of their lives.

“New Year’s is a great opportunity for us to enjoy time spent with family and friends. Responsible decisions ensure safe travel and joyous celebrations for all.”