Don’t test your luck by driving drunk on St. Patrick’s Day

BG Police Chief Tony Hetrick addresses the press during Swallow Your Pride, Call for a Ride event Thursday.

By DAVID DUPONT

BG Independent News

They won’t be wearing green beads, but you can expect local law enforcement officers to be part of the St. Patrick’s Day scene.

All the local law enforcement agency are teaming up in expectation of a busy weekend. Lt. William Bower, of the Ohio State Highway Patrol, said with St. Patrick’s Day falling on the Friday of the first weekend of the March Madness tournament, he is anticipating a lot of partying. And state patrol officers and others are going to be out in force trying to keep those festivities from spilling out onto the roads where it can turn deadly.

Last St. Patrick’s Day, two people died in Ohio in alcohol related crashes, he said.

To keep that from happening the Wood County Safe Communities Coalition is offering Swallow Your Pride, Call for a Ride. The program, similar to what is offered on New Year’s Eve, provides free transportation from locations in Bowling Green to residences within 10 miles of the city. Sandy Wiechman, the Safe Communities Coordinator, said four vans will be available by calling 419-823-7765 from 6 p.m. Friday, to 2a.m. Saturday or “until the last person is home safe.”

Sandy Wiechman of Safe Communities of Wood County

A drive in a warm van, she said, is better than a ride in a police cruiser wearing cold handcuffs. And that is better than having an officer show up at a home to inform a family that a loved one has been seriously hurt or dead because of drunk driving. No one wants to get that news, and the police don’t want to deliver it.

It just takes a moment to ruin a life, she said.

A press conference to promote the program was held Thursday (March 16) at the Thayer Family Dealership in Bowling Green.

This is the fourth year the coalition is offering the service, Wiechman said. Last year rides were offered during the day, she said, but the demand didn’t justify that.

As the weather has permitted, the coalition has been trying to get the message out throughout the week. Using the Candy Cab – a golf cart, they have offered students rides, and during the ride engaged them in conversation about drinking.

Bowling Green State University Police Chief Mike Campbell said his department does alcohol-related education throughout the year.

“We’re aware that St. Patrick’s Day brings out more individuals who are drinking,” he said. His department works closely with city police on managing the situation.

He also noted that the campus shuttle is adding some extra runs to encourage students not to drive after drinking.

The state patrol and Bowling Green police will have extra officers, and the state patrol and the Wood County sheriff will set up a sobriety check point over the weekend. There will be a checkpoint in Lucas County as well. The timing is not coincidental. The checkpoints are intended “to deter impaired drivers,” Bower said.

On St. Patrick’s Day the drinking tends to last all day. “We do arrest impaired drivers all day, but on St. Patrick’s Day it’s a little more.”

Bower said the additional coverage will extend through Saturday.

Hetrick said that 1,031 arrests for drunk driving were made by either city or state police in the three-year period from 2014 to 2016 within a three-mile radius of the four corners in downtown Bowling Green. In 2016, he said, 212 arrests were made. He termed those numbers “an epidemic.”

In that period, four people died in alcohol-related crashes, including one this year.

Still Bower said that over the course of his 17-year career the problem has lessened. “I think we’ve done a good job of making people aware of the danger.”

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