TEMPE, AZ — Police officers know that New Year's Eve is a holiday where people celebrate with alcohol. But, it also means that there will be some people who make the bad decision to drink and drive.
Like they do most nights and especially during major events, police DUI Task Forces are set up around the Valley where police agencies can not only keep an eye out for suspected impaired drivers, but arrest people and process them for suspected drunk driving.
"You've got to be aware of all the vehicles around you. Not just as a police officer, but anyone in general,” said Tempe Police Officer Anthony Nardini, who has been part of the agency's DUI task force for nearly four years.
"My goal is to get these people off the street and to get them safely home,” he said.
On Friday, as many headed out to bars and restaurants ahead of New Year's Eve, Officer Nardini has already stopped a vehicle where the driver was suspected of being impaired behind the wheel.
That driver, Nathan Keeling, agreed to speak with an ABC15 reporter after he was processed.
According to police, Keeling's blood-alcohol level Friday night was .103, which is more than the state's legal limit of .08. Keeling was cited and released. He is innocent until proven guilty.
"I just got charged with DUI for crashing my car. I don't know. It is kind of embarrassing, but I should have known better,” he told ABC15.
In this specific case, police said he was driving down Guadalupe Road, near Lake Short Drive, when he hit a curb, drove into a fire hydrant, and knocked down a light pole. Thankfully, the officer said no one was on the sidewalk.
"It could have possibly killed somebody if something was not in front of that car,” the officer said.
As the night continued, more drivers were pulled down for suspected impaired driving. One motorist had a broken light, while another driver failed to maintain their lane.
Overall, police said the main goal with the task force is to save lives and not put people in handcuffs.
"In my eyes, that's us helping them, helping them get home safe. Helping them make sure they don't make the biggest mistake of their life,” Officer Nardini said.
If you do go out and drink, never drink and drive. Have a designated driver, a sober friends or family member, or call a taxi, Lyft, Uber, or another ride-share service. The Valley Metro was offering free rides on its buses and light rails until 2 a.m. Saturday morning, Jan. 1, 2022.