Sheriff: More officers on duty Labor Day weekend

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Sheriff Donnie Barrera reminds the public that this Labor Day weekend families and friends will be celebrating the end of the summer. Sadly, this festive time has also become a dangerous time for America’s roads, as many drunk drivers get behind the wheel after celebrating.

For this reason, the Highland County Sheriff’s Office is partnering with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to stop drunk drivers and to help save lives. The high-visibility national enforcement campaign – Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over – runs Aug. 19 to Sept. 5.

During this period, local law enforcement will show zero tolerance for drunk driving. Increased state and national messaging about the dangers of driving drunk, coupled with sobriety checkpoints and increased officers on the road, aim to drastically reduce drunk driving on our nation’s roads, Barrera said.

On average, over 10,000 people died each year (2010 to 2014) in drunk-driving crashes. During the 2014 Labor Day holiday weekend (6 p.m. Aug. 29 to 5:59 a.m. Sept. 2), 40 percent of the fatalities in traffic crashes involved drunk drivers, which was the highest percentage over the five years 2010 to 2014. And, nighttime proves to be the most dangerous time to be out on the roads: During the 2014 Labor Day holiday period, 83 percent of drunk-driving crash fatalities occurred between 6 p.m. and 5:59 a.m. – as compared to half of all drunk-driving crash fatalities throughout the rest of that year.

Additionally, 40 percent of crash fatalities on Labor Day weekend in 2014 involved drunk drivers (with blood alcohol concentrations [BACs] of .08 or higher), amounting to 162 lives lost. And we’re not just talking about a little bit of alcohol, either. More than a quarter (28 percent) of the crash fatalities that occurred on Labor Day weekend involved drivers with BACs of .15 or higher—almost twice the illegal limit.

“People need to understand that drunk driving is not only deadly, but it is illegal,” said Barrera. “Drunk driving is a massive problem in the United States, with more than 10,000 people dying annually. Drivers need to pay attention to their own driving, but also to others on the road who could be driving drunk. It is your business. If you think you see a drunk driver, call us and let us know.”

The reality is that people are not invincible. Of the 9,967 people who were killed in impaired-driving crashes in 2014, 64 percent were the drunk drivers themselves. Those 6,391 drunk drivers thought they would make it to their destinations, but sadly, they did not.

“There are people who like to pretend that certain laws do not apply to them, but just to be clear: in every state, for every person, it is illegal to drive with a BAC of .08 or higher,” said Barrera.

“This is important to remember: Do not trust yourself when you drink,” Barrera added. “You may think you are not drunk, but law enforcement will know if you are. Law enforcement officers’ skills in detecting and identifying drunk drivers have never been better. They will spot you and they will arrest you. Please, please: plan ahead before you go out. Designate a sober driver or call a cab. But, whatever you do, do not drink and drive.”

The NHTSA has made it even easier to get home safely when you’ve been drinking, with the free SaferRide mobile app, available through iTunes and Google Play. The app allows you to call preselected contacts or a taxi, and also identifies your location so you can be picked up. Test this in advance to be sure that it is an option you may use.

This August, and every day, remember: there is never an excuse to drink and drive. If you choose to break the law, deputies of the Highland County Sheriff’s Office will see you before you see them. Drive sober or get pulled over.

Submitted by Highland County Sheriff Donnie Barrera, who can be reached for further information at 937-393-1421.

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