Transit and state officials encouraged San Diego residents Monday to take advantage of free public transportation on New Year's Eve and reminded revelers not to mix driving with alcohol or drugs.
"Ringing in the New Year with friends and family is something we all look forward to, but that's no excuse to act irresponsibly,'' said Jack O'Connell, state superintendent of public instruction.
"This holiday week is historically one of the deadliest times of year for our young people because of drinking and driving,'' he said. "That being said, my message to all Californians, especially our youth, about driving under the influence is: Don't do it.''
In an effort to keep drunks off the road, the Metropolitan Transit System will offer free around-the-clock service on New Year's Eve on select bus routes and all San Diego Trolleys.
More than 7,600 drivers and motorcyclists between the ages of 15 and 20 were involved in fatal traffic crashes nationwide in 2006, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and nearly 1,400 of them were found to have blood-alcohol levels of .08 or higher. Minors are legally barred from driving with any alcohol in their system.
Impaired teen drivers are at far greater risk of being involved in a fatal crash than older drivers, according to the DMV. Teen judgment is more impaired by just one or two drinks than older drivers, and their limited experience behind the wheel puts them at even greater risk.
Penalties for teens found to have been drinking and driving include suspension of their driver's license for a year, seizure of their vehicles, fines and jail time.
"Our young people have their entire lives ahead of them and we cannot let them jeopardize their futures, so let's make sure they celebrate the New Year safely and without drugs and alcohol,'' O'Connell said.