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The dangers and punishments of drunk driving

New Year's Eve is right around the corner. That means music, dancing and champagne. But think twice before getting behind the wheel if you've been drinking.

NORFOLK, Va. — The countdown to 2023 is on and if you’re planning on celebrating with some champagne, make a plan to get home safely.

There are so many ways to celebrate New Year’s Eve around Hampton Roads. From Last Night on the Town in Virginia Beach to Big Ugly Brewing's 80’s party in Chesapeake.

If you’re planning to go out and celebrate with some champagne, getting behind the wheel afterward could have serious consequences.

Last year on New Year’s Eve, AAA said there were 10 crashes involving alcohol in Hampton Roads. The year before there were 14.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), during the month of December from 2016 to 2020, more than 4,400 people were killed in alcohol-related crashes.

"Many of those crashes could have potentially been preventable had someone not gotten behind the wheel after they drank," said AAA spokesperson Ryan Adcock.

There are lots of options to get home safely.

In an effort to decrease the chances of a person getting behind the wheel after one too many cocktails or glasses of champagne this New Year's Eve, Drive Safe Hampton Roads has partnered with Lyft to provide a code for a free or reduced cost ride. 

The code, which can be found here, will be posted on December 31. It will remain active from 4 p.m. that day through 4 a.m. on January 1, 2023. 

During that time period, Lyft app users ages 21 and older will be able to type the code in on the 'Payment' tab and access a safe, sober ride home. 

This will be available across all seven cities in the region. 

“Using Lyft as an alternative to impaired driving is a smart option for individuals and for reducing social harm in their communities,” said Kamillah Wood, Director of Public Policy for Community Safety at Lyft.

“Roadway Safety Programs like in Hampton Roads and Lyft's public partnerships empower communities with safer options for themselves and those around them.”  

It's also a good idea to pick a sober designated driver before you start the party or plan to crash at a friend's house if you can't make it home.

"Have a plan going into the night so that you don’t have to make one when you may not necessarily be in the best frame of mind," said Adcock.

If you don’t take any of those options and you’ve been drinking, there could be serious consequences, even deadly, consequences.

For starters in Virginia, you could spend up to a year in jail, a fine between $250 and $2,500 and you could lose your license for 12 to 36 months.

The jail penalty significantly increases if your blood alcohol level is 0.15 or higher, or if it's your second offense.

Third-offense DUI cases are classified as felony crimes with up to five years in prison and permanent revocation of your license. 

Outside of the law, you could also lose your job and your insurance premiums will rise drastically.

Worst of all, you could end a life, whether it's your own or someone else's.

So think about it, what's cheaper? A $25 Uber or Lyft ride or all of the fines, fees and punishment you'll face if you are charged with DUI.

This weekend you’ll see a lot of state and local police on the roads as part of the "Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over Campaign." Police teams will have increased "saturation patrols" and sobriety checkpoints through New Year’s Day.

So, even if you think you haven’t had "that much to drink," just don’t take the risk.

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