As summer comes to a close, local law enforcement is ramping up their 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. Richland County Safe Communities Coalition is a partner with local law enforcement agencies in getting the Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over message out.
August 21-September 7 (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.
In 2013, there were 10,076 people killed in drunk–driving crashes, almost a third of all traffic fatalities, 38 percent of crash fatalities on Labor Day weekend that year involved drunk drivers (with blood alcohol concentrations [BACs] of .08 or higher), amounting to 161 lives lost. More than a quarter (27 percent) of the crash fatalities that occurred on Labor Day weekend involved drivers with BACs of .15 or higher—almost twice the illegal per se limit.
“Too many people think their actions don’t affect anybody else,” said Reed Richmond, Health Educator at Richland Public Health and a Richland County Safe Communities Coalition spokesperson. “They know it’s illegal. They know it’s wrong. But they do it anyway – they make decisions as if those statistics just can’t happen to them,” he added.
The reality is, people aren’t invincible. Of the 10,076 people who were killed in impaired-driving crashes in 2013, 65 percent were the drunk drivers themselves. Those 6,515 drunk drivers planned on making it to their destinations, but they didn’t.
Local and State impaired driving statistics can be just as disturbing as the national numbers. Richland County had 350 convictions of Operating a Vehicle Impaired (OVI) in 2014 and 45 percent of those had previous alcohol-related arrests. Last year, Richland County had 150 alcohol-related crashes resulting in 74 injuries and one fatality. (Ohio Crash Facts: Alcohol-Related Crashes by County).
NHTSA data shows that repeat offenders are an especially dangerous part of the drunk-driving problem. In the month of August from 2009-2013, of the drunk drivers involved in fatal crashes, almost 1 out of 10 (8 percent) of them had already been convicted of at least one drunk-driving offense.
In 2014, Ohio recorded 12,480 Alcohol-Related Crashes. Of these crashes 271 were fatal crashes, resulting in 297 deaths. Alcohol-related injury crashes were 5,049 resulting in 7,029 injuries. (Ohio Crash Facts)
In 2014, Ohio had 37,094 Convictions of OVI, involving alcohol and/or drugs. There were 1,909 convictions for OVI/BAC with a .17 or above. OVI/Refusals convictions were 1,505 and Driving Under OVI Suspension was 2,884. (Ohio BMV)
In every state, it’s illegal to drive with a BAC of .08 or higher. The Safe Communities Coalition wants to remind Richland County drivers that it’s not a recommendation; it’s the law. And during the enforcement period starting August 21, there will be a special emphasis on drunk-driving enforcement. Local drivers should expect to see more patrol vehicles, DUI checkpoints, and increased messaging about this reckless, preventable crime. “The number of people who are still drinking and driving is unacceptable,” added Richmond. “Yes, we want to increase awareness for the campaign, but we want the effects to be permanent.”