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Friday, March 14, 2014 8:09 PM

Staff Reports

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As St. Patrick’s Day approaches, state and local law enforcement is urging drivers to designate a sober driver before the party begins. Law enforcement will be working to remove impaired drivers as part of the National Highway Safety Administration’s Buzzed Driving is Drunk Driving campaign.

St. Patrick’s Day has become a popular night to celebrate with friends and family. However, due to impaired drivers, it has also become a very dangerous night on Ohio’s roadways. Last year, no one was killed in a traffic crash in Ohio on St. Patrick’s Day, the first time that this has occurred in at least the last five years. During this 24-hour period, the Ohio State Highway Patrol made 142 OVI arrests.

“We want people to enjoy the celebration but we encourage them to do so responsibly,” said Colonel Paul A. Pride, Patrol superintendent. “Don’t press your luck – designate a sober driver.”

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that more than 269 people have been senselessly killed nationwide in crashes involving drunk drivers during the St. Patrick’s Day holiday from 2007-11. Those fatalities were preventable.

“When you celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, just be smart about it. If you know you’re going to drink — whether with friends at a bar or attending a party — designate a sober driver ahead of time or call a taxi to make sure you get home safely,” said Mike Klear, director of Putnam County Safe Communities.

According to NHTSA in 2011, on average, one person was killed every 53 minutes in a drunk-driving crash in the United States. Most of these crashes involved drunk drivers who had blood alcohol concentrations of .15 or higher, almost twice the legal limit of .08.

To prevent these tragedies from occurring, the Safe Communities Coalition recommends the following steps to have a safe and happy St. Patrick’s Day:

• Before the festivities begin, plan a way to safely get home at the end of the night.

• Before drinking, designate a sober driver and leave your car keys at home.

• If you’re impaired, use a taxi, call a sober friend or family member, or use public transportation to get home safely.

• If you see a drunk driver on the road, contact local police. You could save a life.

• And remember, if you know people who are about to drive or ride while impaired, take their keys and help them make other arrangements to get to where they are going safely.

To prevent deaths and injuries, the Patrol is partnering with local law enforcement and safety advocates around the state to increase enforcement on Ohio’s roads and remind people to plan ahead to designate a sober driver. More than 99 local law enforcement agencies around the state will conduct enforcement activity, saturation patrols and sobriety checkpoints funded by federal grants provided through the Patrol’s Ohio Traffic Safety Office.

For bars and permit holders, over-serving or serving underage customers could also mean costly fines, suspension or revocation of their liquor permit. The Ohio Investigative Unit and other safety partners have been working to educate motorists and permit holders of these consequences in advance reminding people of the dangers of driving impaired, and that over-serving is against the law.

As always, motorists are encouraged to call #677 to report drug activity or impaired drivers.


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