Patrol encourages responsible celebrating

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 31, 2002

As another year comes to a close, the Ohio State Highway Patrol urges everyone to celebrate New Year's Eve responsibly, and warns that troopers will be out in force to deter intoxicated drivers and make travel safer.

"Let us start off 2003 right by reducing fatalities on Ohio's roadways." Col. Kenneth Morckel, superintendent of the OSHP, said in a written release. "The rise in traffic crash fatalities this year in Ohio is a serious issue that is not receiving the public attention it merits.

"The driving public must help law enforcement by taking personal responsibility for their safety when they get behind the wheel of a motor vehicle. Keep yourself and your loved ones safe, obey traffic laws and designate a driver if you plan to drink this New Year's Eve."

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The Patrol continues to enforce the "You Drink & Drive. You Lose." campaign, and will be out in full force throughout the New Year's holiday, which began at midnight Sunday and will end at midnight on Wednesday.

On the 2001-2002 New Year's weekend, 12 people were killed in 11 automobile accidents in Ohio. None of the people killed were wearing their safety belts, and at least four of the crashes were alcohol related.

"Whether you realize it or not impairment begins with one drink," Sgt.

Jacob Kisor, of the Ironton Post, said. "If you plan to drink, make arrangements -- have someone else drive or stay where you are at."

In Lawrence County, there was one fatality last year during the New Year's weekend, and it was alcohol related, Kisor said.

"Surrounding the holidays people tend to celebrate," Kisor said. "We do not want their celebrations to end in tragedy."

Overall, both alcohol-related and non-alcohol-related crashes have increased across the state. In 2000, there were 350 alcohol-related fatalities. That total increased to 375 in 2001.

"Many otherwise law-abiding citizens continue to view impaired driving merely as a harmless traffic offense," Lt. Carl Roark, Commander of the Patrol's Ironton Post, said. "Don't be fooled.

Impaired driving is one of the most often committed crimes, randomly killing someone in the United Sates every 30 minutes."

In 2002, there has been a total of 971 rural fatalities compared to to 945 in 2001.

The OSHP encourages travelers to report any impaired or aggressive drivers, disabled vehicles, or anyone needing highway assistance. The toll-free number is 1-800-7-PATROL.