With the New Year’s holiday being a time of celebration and new beginnings, once again this year, the Macon County Sheriff’s Department (MCSO) wanted to start the year off right by working to keep the roads as safe as possible by hosting the Operation Think Twice Program.
Each year, the MCSO holds Operation Think Twice on New Year’s Eve to provide a safe way for residents to get home after a night of celebration. With a “no questions asked” policy, anyone needing a safe ride home on New Year’s Eve was encouraged to call dispatch and an officer would take them home.
This year 30 individuals called and requested rides home and the MCSO worked with local businesses such as Mixers and Mulligan’s to ensure their customers would have a ride home if needed.
“Operation Think Twice gives people the opportunity to make a conscious decision not to drink and drive and it also gives people an alternative for getting from one place to another in a safe manner,” said Sheriff Robbie Holland. “Safe for them and safe for others in the community who might have been traveling on our roadways.”
Understanding the importance of the program, each year Alice Nelson volunteers to operate dispatch for Operation Think Twice.
“I believe that Operation Think Twice is so important because the department is out to save lives, the life of the person we are taking home and the lives of the person or family that may have otherwise been in an accident because of the situation,” said Nelson. “This is the main goal of this program. I believe it will continue to be widely and greatly received in our community by the people we help and also the officers who participate.”
The officers run into light hearted people who are often thankful for the program. While past years have garnered funny stories, this year brought examples of the need for the program. “There were not any funny stories this year but there were some individuals who were very intoxicated and it was obvious they would have been a serious risk to the community had they chosen to drive instead of calling on us to assist,” said Holland. “One individual was so impaired that he could not remember if he had called us so he called multiple times. When the officer arrived to the location of where the pick-up was to occur, in uniform and in a marked patrol vehicle, the individual was on the phone with our office and he told the officer that drove up, ‘Hold on sir I’m talking to the Sheriff’s Office trying to get a ride home.’ He was definitely impaired and needed us to drive.”
After receiving calls from individuals year after year, Nelson believes this program is something that needs to be sustained because of the positive impact it has on the community.
“Operation Think Twice is such a positive program for the community. It gives the opportunity to have the option that if they are going to drink then they can do so and know that they will be taken home safely and without any consequences with law enforcement,” said Nelson. “I choose to participate and have for several years, because I do believe with all my heart that it is a very positive program and wonderful service to the community. My husband is a deputy with the department and I know that he has seen too many accidents (even one is too many) as a result of people drinking and driving. I believe that I can give back to the community that my family and I love so much. I consider it an honor to work for the night.”
Nelson’s husband, Corporal Scott Nelson, is happy to work during Operation Think Twice each year.
“Operation Think Twice is an important service to our community. The program allows individuals to make a positive decision by allowing us to take the person home without consequence. The option is there for them to use. Allowing everyone to have a good time and not worry about getting home safely,” he said. “The ‘Think Twice’ program has a positive impact on the community, by reducing the number of DUIs, and accidents related to drinking and driving. Keeping our streets safe.”
After reviewing the numbers of DUI arrests from past years, while other factors more than likely contributed, the program seems to be a deterrent to DUI incidents. According to Holland, several checking stations were set up on New Year’s Eve at various points around the county and no DUI arrests were made from his department. “Numerous vehicles that came through our checking stations had impaired individuals in the vehicle but all had a sober ‘Designated Driver’ operating the vehicles,” said Holland. The only reported incident from New Year’s Eve came from the North Carolina Highway Patrol, who made a DUI arrest following a vehicle accident.
“We have been holding this type of operation for several years now,” said Holland. “We consider this year’s event a success even though we had about half the callers than we have seen in years past. Each year I always have someone who criticizes us for such an operation and calls it a waste of tax dollars. My stance continues to be this is a public service and a pro-active stance to keep our community safer. The cost associated with someone drunk driving is tremendous but the damage they could cause to a family in a tragedy could be much greater. You can’t put a cost on human life that potentially may have been saved. There is never an excuse for drinking and driving but one thing is for sure: you better hope you don’t face a judge in traffic court for getting a DUI in Macon County on New Year’s Eve.”