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Holiday songs with a twist promote DUI media campaign

MURRAY — Dozens of uniformed law enforcement officers, Gov. Gary Herbert and mall shoppers watched Friday as two local singers provided some new lyrics to classic Christmas carols at the Fashion Place Mall.

The background music to "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" roared outside the food court while Carmen Rasmusen Herbert sang, "You better not drink. You better not drive. Before you can blink, you'll get DUIed. Police are patrolling the town."

Following this number, David Osmond took the microphone singing the story of a man who wound up in jail after drinking and driving. "Jailhouse Cells" was sung to the tune of "Jingle Bells."

The holiday DUI sing-along was a collaborative effort between the Utah Department of Public Safety's Highway Safety Office, statewide law enforcement and the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control to urge Utahns to avoid drunken driving.

People tend to consume more alcohol during the holiday season because there are more celebrations, said Keith Squires, Utah's commissioner of Public Safety. This becomes a problem if people drink and drive, he said.

"Our goal at the Utah Department of Public Safety and all of our Utah law enforcement agencies throughout the state is for everyone to get home safe. When people choose to drink and drive, it puts our goal at risk," Squires said.

In December 2014, 173 alcohol-related crashed occurred in Utah, with three fatalities. In all, 45 people died in DUI crashes within the state last year.

"That's 45 people that we won't see around the holiday table. We won't see them at Christmas or at New Year's," Gov. Gary Herbert said. "The loss of a family and friend is significant, so let's do better."

Herbert encouraged those who drink to call a cab, get a designated driver or ask a friend or family member for a ride.

While many Utah workers enjoy more time with their families this season, Utah law enforcement officers will be putting in 200 overtime shifts to increase police visibility and more easily catch those who are driving under the influence, Squires said.

They don't catch people drinking and driving because they want to ruin someone's holiday, he said, but because they've had to tell families that their loved ones have died in alcohol-related crashes, and they don't want to do that again.

Squires invited people to call 911 if they see a driver who they suspect is drunk.

Rasmusen Herbert, the governor's daughter-in-law and a former "American Idol" finalist, said she is happy her songs could be part of Utah's DUI media campaign because they promote a cause she believes in.

"I am that mom on the freeway driving with my kids this holiday season, and I'm expecting everyone to drive as cautiously as I am," she said. "That's why I wanted to get involved."

When asked why he joined the campaign, Osmond said, "I don't want to get killed. I don't want my wife to get killed. I don't want my kids to get killed. I have a lot to live for, and they do, too."

Kellie Furman, who watched the performance live, said using familiar tunes to send an important message was fun and effective.

"My 2-year-old son is constantly asking my husband and I to sing 'Jingle Bells,'" she said. "I know that 'Jailhouse Cells' will be in my head when I am singing, and it'll keep that message in the background."

CDs with the songs were given out to spectators at the mall. Several of the songs will be aired on local radio stations, and the MP3 versions are available for download on drivesober.org.

Email: vjorgensen@deseretnews.com

Twitter: TORIAjorgensen