The holiday season gets underway this Thursday with Thanksgiving. At a press conference attended by a host of county and municipality officials last Friday, Casper College presented a sober reminder that the holiday season has a dark side.

Holiday cheer tempts disaster:

"The adults begin celebrating, and sometimes those celebrations include what may be called adult beverages. Being a little less cutsie, it involves drinking. That is why You Drink, You Drive, You Lose of Natrona County is kicking off its annual holiday anti-impaired driving campaign. This year it's called Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over ... yeah, and call 911."

Susan Burk, with the Matthew Shepard Foundation, welcomed everyone to the campaign against impaired driving and introduced the guest speakers, which included Dr. Dave Cherry, Casper College vice president of academic affairs, Evansville Police Chief Zach Gentile (jen teel'), and Sgt. John Becker with the Natrona County Sheriff's Office.

Impaired drivers ring in holidays:

"I would love to see the number zero on DUI arrests through the holidays. You will never see that, because there's always people out there that drive drunk, and it's a bad thing. We have so many programs out there, Tipsy Taxi, stay at home, designated drivers, and they still don't use it. So, thank you for your efforts, for being here and helping us out, to get the drunk drivers off the highways."

Sgt. Becker also noted that a first offense DUI conviction in Natrona County generally costs the offender more than $10,000.

After the campaign launch, there was a panel discussion with the public and Casper College criminal justice students, moderated by Debbie Taylor with the Casper Chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

During the panel discussion, Casper Police Officer Scott Jones was asked about the new state law that says people arrested for DUI must supply a breath or blood sample. Officer Jones said that they were not taking samples by force, but added that refusal gets the arrestee an interference charge.

New state law prohibits refusal:

"We're not going to harm ourselves or harm somebody else doing that. That's our jurisdiction. I know other jurisdictions will forcibly draw. On the upside however, what we have been seeing is when those individuals finally sober up, and they go before a judge, and the judge finds out that that person refused to allow his warrant to be served on them, they're getting 60 to 90 days in jail, for that act alone. That's over and above the whole DUI."

The messages: make arrangements for a designated driver or a safe way home long before you take that first drink, and if you see someone driving impaired, call 911.