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Officers hunt for drunken drivers

With just 10 days before Christmas, holiday celebrations, office parties and a festive spirit reign throughout Lawrence County.

Wednesday, December 15, 1999

With just 10 days before Christmas, holiday celebrations, office parties and a festive spirit reign throughout Lawrence County.

But, celebrating wisely is the best way to ensure a safe holiday season, said Lt. Jim Coleman, Ohio Highway Patrol South Point post commander.

"Certainly this is a time of year when we see an increase in the number of alcohol-related offenses and we prepare for that accordingly," he said. "We are working with other local law-enforcement agencies in the national program, You Drink, You Drive, You Lose, and patrols are increased."

When a person drinks an alcoholic beverage and then gets behind the wheel of a vehicle, his or her motor skills and reaction times are always impaired, Coleman said.

Even one drink affects a driver, he said.

"One drink does make a difference," he said. "For a person that does not normally drink alcohol, one drink certainly would make a difference, but that is not to say just because a person is accustomed to drinking that they would be safe behind the wheel."

Although the legal Blood Alcohol Content limit in Ohio is 0.10, remaining below this level also does not ensure safety, either.

"If a person is below that limit it does not mean they are not impaired," he said. "And the rule should always be, simply, don’t drink and drive."

For drivers who take the unnecessary risk, OHP already is stepping up patrols.

"We’re assigning people in areas that drinking drivers tend to frequent," Coleman said. "Our officers know the county and they know the roadways. They know the backroads people use to try and avoid us."

Penalties for driving under the influence vary depending on the number of offenses, but none of the penalties would be welcome Christmas gifts, Coleman warns.

"For a first-time offender, the penalty is three days in jail or school, loss of operator’s license and other community sanctions," he said. "Of course, there are insurance costs involved in that as well."

For repeat offenders, the consequences are increasingly severe, he added.

"It can go on up to as serious as a felony charge, depending on the number of offenses," Coleman said. "Some of the penalties for repeat offenders include immobilization of the vehicle, the loss of their vehicle, and, depending on the number of offenses for driving under suspension, forfeiture of the vehicle."