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Impaired drivers being targeted

Drive sober this weekend and ALWAYS
Drive sober this weekend and ALWAYS

As part of a national law enforcement initiative, police will be out looking for drivers who appear to be impaired. The Ohio Highway Patrol and local police departments are working together to reduce traffic accidents over the Labor Day Holiday 3-day weekend. The national program, "Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over", has, as its primary goal, accident reductions by discouraging impaired drivers from getting behind the wheel of the car or by removing impaired drivers from the roadways and a secondary goal of promoting safe driving practices, such as wearing seatbelts. The "crackdown" began on 15 August 2014 and will extend through the 1st of September.

Approximately 10,000 people lose their lives every year due to drunk driving accidents. While 2013 was the "safest year ever", 2014 has been a safe year relative to traffic fatalities. The intent of marketing campaigns such as the "Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over" is to ensure a continuation of the past success. Last year, 16 Ohioans lost their life due to a traffic accident over the Labor Day holiday, with half of those fatalities resulting from impaired drivers. The funding for the enhanced enforcement was made possible from funds through the Ohio Traffic Safety Office from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Motorists traveling through the State of Ohio have undoubtedly seen highway signage asking drivers to report individuals who appear to be impaired to the Ohio Highway Patrol (dial #677). However, with the enhanced enforcement, motorists are likely to see significantly more police presence on the roadways in addition to "check points" strategically posted.

While police presence and checkpoints are designed to stop impaired drivers, the public awareness program is a campaign to remind motorists not to drive impaired in the first place. The "they will see you before you see them" service announcement in the form of video and commercials serves as that reminder. The consequences for drunk driving in Ohio include for a 1st Offense: Jail (3 days to 6 months), Fines ($250-$1000), and Driving Suspension (6 months to 3 years) and increases with each subsequent offense. For a 4th offense, the penalties are truly significant: Jail (60 days to 1 year), Fines ($800 - $10,000) and Driving Suspension (3 years to Permanent). As a reminder, a motorist (21 and older) is considered to be an impaired driver with a blood alcohol content (BAC) level of .08% or higher. A motorist under the age of 21 is considered to be an impaired driver with a BAC of .02% or higher. An example of "how much is too much" would be an individual weighing 140 pounds is considered impaired at 3 drinks and a drunk driver at 4 drinks where one drink is equivalent to one 12 oz beer or 5 oz glass of wine or 1.5 oz shot of hard liquor. Someone weighing 200 pounds would be considered impaired at 4 drinks and drunk at 5 drinks.

What can a person who wishes to celebrate the holiday weekend with alcohol do to avoid becoming an impaired driver? The obvious answer is to "not get behind the wheel of a car". But the real answer comes from "planning ahead". Anticipation is better than problem solving. By anticipating imbibing, one can plan their actions while they are not under the influence. Possible action strategies include: staying at where one is celebrating (until no longer intoxicated), having a designated driver, or calling for taxi services. Reducing the amount of one's drinking alcohol and drinking water while celebrating will also help one in making better decisions. Plan ahead relative to the amount of alcohol one expects to drink and the time one wishes to stop drinking also assists in making better decisions. Drunk driving is a bad decision that can be avoided.