SIOUX FALLS, SD -
Several people rang in the new year behind bars. Sioux Falls police conducted an overnight saturation that led to more than a dozen drunk driving arrests. The additional officers on duty put an early end to the New Year's Eve revelry for those drivers caught drinking.
A heavy police presence is becoming as much of a New Year's Eve tradition in Sioux Falls as confetti and champagne.
"We would, by far, prefer an evening where we go out for a DUI saturation and we arrest nobody," Bret Hamlyn of the Sioux Falls Police Department said.
But when the drinkers get behind the wheel, officers don't hesitate to crash the party.
"Over the years, we've just seen the horrific results of somebody that gets in a car that's impaired and decides to drive and so we have no sympathy for those people," Hamlyn said.
Police are encouraged by more people relying upon designated drivers and taxi services to hop from party to party and bar to bar. But the message about the dangers of drinking and driving still hasn't sunk in for some people.
"It's kind of the invincibility mode of 'everybody but me,' 'it's going to happen to everybody but me,' or 'I'll be able to make it,'" Hamlyn said.
Police say the number of drunk driving arrests overnight was higher than a typical New Year's Eve.
"It's hard to tell whether that has to do with the improved road and weather conditions over some of the years past, or the additional manpower, probably a combination of both," Hamlyn said.
Police are optimistic the impact they've made on New Year's Eve drinking and driving will carry over into the next 12 months and beyond.
"There's still way too many people that are killed by an incident that's 100 percent preventable. And until we can get it down to zero, or as close to zero as possible, we're going to be out there as frequently as we can," Hamlyn said.
The saturation is funded by a national highway safety grant.
Final arrest numbers won't come out until later this week.
The saturation ended at 4 a.m. Tuesday but officers responded to a drunk driving-related crash on West 12th Street at 6 a.m. Tuesday.
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