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Officials to hunt drunken drivers

Drinking and driving will end badly for residents who imbibe and decide to get behind the wheel, local law enforcement officials say.

Tuesday, December 07, 1999

Drinking and driving will end badly for residents who imbibe and decide to get behind the wheel, local law enforcement officials say.

Lawrence County Sheriff’s Department deputies, Ohio Highway Patrol troopers and police officers from every law enforcement agency in the county will join forces this month in a campaign to remove drunken drivers from the roads.

Part of the national program, "You Drink, You Drive … You Lose," every county, village, state and city officer will be on the lookout for potentially intoxicated drivers, Deputy Jerry Elliot said.

"As families and friends come together all over Ohio to celebrate this holiday season, the Lawrence County Sheriff’s office will be increasing law enforcement patrols targeting impaired drivers in an effort to save lives by preventing alcohol-related crashes," Elliot said. "The sheriff’s office will be joined in the effort by the Ohio Highway Patrol and the Athalia, Proctorville, Chesapeake, South Point, Coal Grove, Ironton and Hanging Rock police departments."

In December 1998, 37 Ohio residents lost their lives to alcohol-related crashes, OHP Trooper Chris Smith said. This year, efforts to save lives are being focused on the national campaign to get impaired drivers off the roads and making sure they are punished, he said.

"Penalties for first-time offenders convicted of driving under the influence range from three-day to six-month jail terms and fines from $250 to $1,000," Smith said. "This is an important, joint-agency program. Alcohol is involved in one out of every four fatal crashes in Ohio, and last year in Ohio, 375 people lost their lives in alcohol-related crashes."

Intoxicated drivers are not the only causes of accidents, either.

Research by the Ohio Department of Public Safety shows that even small amounts of alcohol can impair the skills involved in driving, but the persistent notion that the problem is predominantly one of drunken drivers has allowed many drinking drivers to decide they are not part of the problem, Elliot explained.

"The probability of an accident increases at any Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) level higher than zero," Elliot said. "But, at a BAC as low as 0.02 percent, the alcohol affects driving ability and the likelihood of an automobile accident."

For the program, the department of public safety will assist by airing statewide paid radio advertising throughout the month, as well as providing resources to local agencies, Elliot said.

"Patrols will increase, and we also would like the residents to assist," he said. "Motorists can, and are encouraged to, report suspected drunk drivers by calling 1-800-GRAB-DUI or star DUI on their cellular phones."