For many people, parties, celebrations and even daily life itself include the use of alcohol. But with the fun and relaxation factor some think alcohol provides comes responsibility.
Highland County Sheriff Donnie Barrera summarized the accountability that comes with alcohol, saying, “If you’re going to drink, drink responsibly.”
Barrera also said that alcohol “plays a big factor” on local crime, adding that it can be a “gateway” for drug use and other offenses. He said that locally, summertime has a significant impact on alcohol consumption and any related charges.
“Summer heat brings out a little more alcohol use,” Barrera said.
Operating a vehicle under the influence (OVI) is “the big (charge)” that comes from alcohol consumption, he added.
According to Ohio State Highway Patrol Lieutenant Stan Jordan, Highland County has seen a total of six fatal crashes this year, with “half of those” involving alcohol or drugs. Five of those were one-car crashes.
“We had the same kind of issue last year in Highland County,” Jordan said. He added that a “significant number” of non-fatal crashes also involved driving under the influence.
“It seems like it keeps happening,” he said.
Impaired driving, Jordan said, is something that “trends up and down, but it’s always fairly prevalent.” It is an issue, he added, that OSHP is “always combating.”
And — according to OSHP operational reports from 2011 through 2014, as well as recent data from 2015 — arrests for OVI have remained relatively steady.
In Highland County, OSHP reported arresting 96 people in 2011; 115 people in 2012; and 109 people in both 2013 and 2015. The number dips slightly so far this year, with 54 arrests reported.
In comparison, a total of 15,133 OVI arrests have been made statewide this year. The highest total arrests in the period came in 2014, with 24,706; the lowest came in 2011, with 23,748.
Jordan added that in many OVI cases, “I would suspect a great number of them are social drinkers.”
He said that most people tend to drive under the influence late at night or early in the morning – the times when they are also the most tired.
Jordan said that alcohol can also contribute to a “false sense of courage,” which may lead to speeding. He added that the best way to avoid an accident involving impaired drivers is to “just drive defensively.”
Jordan added that wearing a seatbelt can give drivers and passengers “a bigger chance of surviving crashes.” He said that people should report erratic driving.
“At least we can try to track these people down,” he said.
Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also described the dangers of excessive alcohol use. According to the CDC, between 2006 and 2010, such consumption “led to approximately 88,000 deaths and 2.5 million years of potential life lost … shortening the lives of those who died by an average of 30 years.”
Injuries from vehicle crashes and other accidents – such as falls, drownings, and burns – are among several short-term alcohol-related risks, as listed by the CDC.
Other risks listed included violence to others or to oneself and alcohol poisoning.
Over time, the CDC reported the following possible long-term risks: high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, liver disease, digestive problems, various cancers, learning and memory problems, depression, and anxiety.
The CDC added that other effects could include “social problems,” such as “lost productivity, family problems, and unemployment.”
Barrera warned, “Any time you add alcohol to a situation … it alters the mind and can make a situation turn bad.”
Reach Sarah Allen at 937-393-3456 or on Twitter @SarahAllenHTG.