POMEROY — December is one of the most dangerous times of the year for alcohol- and drug-related accidents and deaths, according to the Meigs County Community Prevention Coalition, who wants to remind the community that December is National Drunk and Drugged Driving Prevention Month.
In an average year, 30 million Americans drive drunk, and 10 million Americans drive impaired by illicit drugs. According to MADD, drunk driving costs the United States $199 billion a year.
And the human toll is even greater. In 2013, there were 10,076 people killed in drunk–driving crashes, almost a third of all traffic fatalities. In every state, it’s illegal to drive with a BAC of .08 or higher.
Meigs Prevention Council President Judge Scott Powell wants to remind Meigs County drivers that it’s not a recommendation; it’s the law. And during the holiday season, 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,” Powell said. “Yes, we want to increase awareness for the campaign, but we want the effects to be permanent.”
After alcohol, marijuana is the drug most often linked to drugged driving. Tests for detecting marijuana in drivers measure the level of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), marijuana’s active ingredient, in the blood. The effects of specific drugs differ depending on how they act in the brain.
For example, marijuana can slow reaction time, impair judgment of time and distance, and decrease motor coordination. Drivers who have used cocaine or methamphetamine can be aggressive and reckless when driving. Certain kinds of sedatives, called benzodiazepines, can cause dizziness and drowsiness, which can lead to accidents.
There can be a misconception that driving under the influence of marijuana or a prescription medication is somehow safer than driving while impaired by alcohol. The bottom line, according to Powell, is local officers and Ohio State Highway Patrol troopers are ramping up enforcement efforts as part of a national crackdown on drunk driving, in partnership with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to curb impaired driving and save lives.
They and other officers nationwide, during the holiday season, 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.
“Too many people think their actions don’t affect anybody else,” Powell said. “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.”
Reggie Robinson, community services manager of Health Recovery Services, emphasized the preventable nature of drunk driving.
“All it takes is a little planning ahead,” he said. “Designate a sober driver or call a cab. But whatever you do, don’t drink and drive.”
NHTSA has made it even easier to get home safely when you’ve been drinking. The new SaferRide mobile app (free from the iTunes store and Google Play), can help users call a taxi or a friend for a ride home. The app can even help you identify your location so you can be picked up.
The Meigs Community Prevention Coalition is a group of citizens dedicated to reducing drug abuse in Meigs County through education, community initiatives and increased access to treatment and other helping resources. The coalition meets at the Meigs Juvenile Court offices on the third Wednesday of each month at 12:30 p.m. The public is invited to attend.