XENIA — As summer winds down, Greene County law enforcement agencies are ramping up enforcement efforts as part of a national crackdown on drunk driving. The 20 day, high visibility campaign, Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over, is a partnership with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to curb impaired driving and save lives.
Beginning Aug. 19 through Sept. 5 (Labor Day), law enforcement partners nationwide will show zero tolerance for drunk driving. Increased state and national messaging about the dangers of driving drunk, coupled with checkpoints and increased officers on the road, aim to drastically reduce the toll of drunk driving.
According to NHSTA, on average, over 10,000 people died each year (2010-14) in drunk driving crashes. During the 2014 Labor Day holiday weekend (6 p.m. Aug. 29 – 5:59 a.m. Sept. 2), 40 percent of the fatalities in traffic crashes involved drunk drivers, which was the highest percentage over the five years 2010-14. And nighttime proves to be the most dangerous time to be out on the roads: During the 2014 Labor Day holiday period, 83 percent of drunk-driving crash fatalities occurred between 6 p.m. and 5:59 a.m. – as compared to half of all drunk-driving crash fatalities throughout the rest of that year.
Additionally, 40 percent of crash fatalities on Labor Day weekend in 2014 involved drunk drivers (with blood alcohol concentrations [BACs] of .08 or higher), amounting to 162 lives lost. And we’re not just talking about a little bit of alcohol, either. More than a quarter (28 percent) of the crash fatalities that occurred on Labor Day weekend involved drivers with BACs of .15 or higher — almost twice the illegal limit.
“People need to understand that drunk driving is not only deadly, but it is illegal,” said Jillian Bothwell, Safe Communities Coordinator for Greene County Public Health.“Drunk driving is a massive problem in the United States, with more than 10,000 people dying annually. Drivers need to pay attention to their own driving, but also to others on the road who could be driving drunk,” she added. “It is your business. If you think you see a drunk driver, call local law enforcement and let them know.”
The reality is that people aren’t invincible. Of the 9,967 people who were killed in impaired-driving crashes in 2014, 64 percent were the drunk drivers themselves. Those 6,391drunk drivers thought they would make it to their destinations, but they didn’t.
“There are people who like to pretend that certain laws don’t apply to them, but just to be clear: in every state, for every person, it is illegal to drive with a BAC of .08 or higher,” said Bothwell. During the enforcement period, there will be a special emphasis on drunk-driving enforcement. Local drivers should expect to see more patrol vehicles, sobriety check points, and increased messaging about the dangers of drunk driving. “This is an unacceptable problem. Drunk driving is selfish and dangerous. Our local law enforcement officers want to increase awareness with this campaign, but also see lasting results of decreased drunk driving,” she said.
“This is important to remember: do not trust yourself when you drink,” said Bothwell. “You may think you aren’t drunk, but law enforcement will know you are. Law enforcement officers’ skills in detecting and identifying drunk drivers have never been better. They will spot you and arrest you. Please, please: plan ahead before you go out. Designate a sober driver or call a cab. But whatever you do, do not drink and drive,” she added. NHTSA has made it even easier to get home safely when you’ve been drinking, with the free SaferRide mobile app, available through iTunes and Google Play. The app allows you to call pre-selected contacts or a taxi, and also identifies your location so you can be picked up.
This August, and every day, remember: there is never an excuse to drink and drive. If you choose to break the law, Greene County law enforcement officers will see you before you see them. Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over.
For more information about the Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign, visit www.TrafficSafetyMarketing.gov or contact Jillian Bothwell at 937-374-5683 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The next meeting of the Greene County Safe Communities Coalition is Wednesday, October 19, 9:00am, at the Herman N. Menapace Center for Health Education in Xenia, a part of Greene Memorial Hospital. The public is welcome and invited to attend.
Story courtesy of Greene County Public Health.