PORTSMOUTH , VA-- Mixing drinks will be part of the New Years Eve celebrations in downtown Portsmouth. What the Sheriff's Department wants to discourage is mixing drinking and driving.

Monday, they'll be distributing and hanging posters to encourage those who've had too much to drink to call 393-5030 and get a free ride home.

'Well, the first year we started it, we had a lot of critics who said we were promoting drinking. I don't even drink myself. We 're not promoting drinking. We're promoting safety,' said Sheriff Bill Watson.

Stacy Baker of Bruitti's Restaurant approves. 'I think it's awesome. I think it's great that they do that. I wish more cities did that. There were hardly any accidents last year and it was a great thing,' she said

There were 83 ride-alongs last New Year. From 10pm New Year's Eve until 2:30 New Year's morning 15-20 volunteer deputy drivers patrol the streets. They've seen it all.

'The parents come out, and they see that you got their son or daughter home safely and that's huge to them,' said Captain Lee Cherry of the Portsmouth Sheriff's Office.

Many partiers think they can handle it. Fatal wrecks can be the result.

'You could still get a DUI and still be able to walk straight. So it is great that you have that opportunity to call that number to get home safe and not hurt anybody, too,' continued Stacy Baker.

Just call 393-5030.

'No questions asked. I don't care how inebriated you are; if we have to pick you up and put you in the car. I'd rather do that than to escort your funeral,' concluded Sheriff Watson.

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