Ohio’s roadways are safer this year because of the diligence of the Ohio State Highway Patrol and local law enforcement officers, but the holiday period that spans from the day before Thanksgiving to Jan. 2, is typically when officers see the most crashes as a result of individuals operating vehicles while impaired.
According to statistics from the patrol, a total of 6,077 OVI, or operating a vehicle while impaired, crashes occurred during the combined 2005 to 2007 holiday seasons, including 104 fatal crashes and 2,430 injury crashes.
“With these sobering statistics in mind, Ohio state troopers will be vigilant in searching for and apprehending impaired drivers through the balance of the holiday season,” said Lt. Tony Bradshaw.
More than half of the OVI holiday crashes occur between 9 p.m. and 3 a.m. and 57 percent occurred on the weekend. In more than half the crashes, the at-fault impaired driver was age 35 or younger.
"Locally, drivers can expect to see extra units on patrol during the New Year's Eve holiday, looking for impaired drivers," said Sgt. Corey Wright with the Batavia Post. "With the additional training we receive, we are better at detecting OVI drivers."
According to the Department of Public Safety during the 2007 Christmas holiday a total of seven of Ohio's 14 traffic fatalities were alcohol related and during the New Year holiday, alcohol was a factor in five of the eight Ohio fatal crashes.
Bethel police will have more officers on duty during New Year's Eve and according to Bethel Police Chief Mark Planck, officer Doug Henize has made a special request to work the shift.
In recent elections, voters approved the sale of alcohol at businesses within the Village of Bethel.
"We have not seen an increase in alcohol related arrests since Bethel now sells alcohol," said Chief Planck. "It hasn't seemed to cause any great disturbance."
With OVI arrests expected on New Year's Eve and jail overcrowding, Chief Planck stated that it is their policy to call a family member of those who are OVI and have them come and get them.
"Family members will be instructed that they are specifically responsible for those arrested," said Planck.
According to Sgt. Wright there are more impaired drivers being reported because of cell phones.
"We get a lot of phone calls from the general public and they are often identifying someone who is driving erratically," said Wright. "We encourage the public to call when they see anything unusual and we will acknowledge the call and investigate."
There is a bright side reported in a recent press release by Col. Richard Collins, OSHP superintendent.
"Working side-by-side with local police officers and sheriff's deputies in Ohio's metropolitan areas, and with support of city leaders, significant reductions in traffic fatalities were realized in 2008," said Collins.
"Provisional data through mid-November indicated a fatality reduction of more than 60 lives saved in urban areas compared to the same time period last year," said Collins. "Traffic crash deaths outside metro areas also declined as troopers maintained previously successful efforts. Overall, traffic deaths are declining nationally approximately 9 percent. At the same time, Ohio's death rate has run close to a 20 percent decline."
During the past two years in a survey that has sought traffic safety opinions from approximately 14,000 Ohio citizens, 93 percent ranked drunk or drug impaired driving as a very important concern and 85 percent viewed reckless or aggressive drivers as a concern.
"State troopers responded to the call-to-action and through the end of October 2008, have made 21,439 OVI arrests, which are 808 more than at the same time in 2007," said Collins. "There is little doubt the increase in OVI arrests directly contributed to the 22 percent reduction in OVI-related fatal crashes recorded in Ohio as compared with October of last year."