By DAVID DUPONT
BG Independent News
The numbers on impaired driving are nothing to celebrate.
This year, 31 percent of the fatal crashes in Wood County involved impaired driving, said Sandra Wiechman, the Safe Communities coordinator for Wood County at a press briefing Thursday.
Sgt. Shawn Fosgate, assistant post commander of the Ohio State Highway Patrol’s Bowling Green Post, said that the percentages of accidents, 30 percent, and arrest related to OVI, 10 percent, remain constant. With more incidents that means “the numbers are going up.”
That’s a trend that Wiechman, Fosgate, BG Police Chief Tony Hetrick, and the other partners in Wood County Safe Communities Coalition work year round to reverse.
For the fifth time Safe Communities will start the year by sponsoring Swallow Your Pride, Call for a Ride. Those who feel unable to drive on New Year’s Eve can call 419-823-7765 from 11 p.m. Dec. 31 through 4 a.m. Jan. 1 and get a ride through the initiative. The program has supplied more than 600 rides in its first four years.
Wiechman said three vans – two provided by the Thayer Family Dealerships and one by the Committee on Aging – are available to get people home from parties and bars safely.
“If you plan to drink, don’t drive, and if you plan to drive, don’t drink,” said Edgar Avila, president and CEO of AAA Northwest Ohio.
Planning ahead is important, Wiechman said, “so you don’t decide when you’re impaired. … It only takes one time for a tragedy to happen.”
The Swallow Your Pride program is just one option for a safe ride home. There’s Super Cab and ride sharing services, such as Uber or Lyft, where available. There’s also the friend who serves as a designated driver.
“There’s no reason to drive impaired driving in Wood County or Bowling Green,” Wiechman said.
Wiechman said that being impaired because of alcohol or drugs are not the only problems. She urged people not only to give their keys to someone else if they were drinking, but give their phone to someone else if they’re driving.
Wearing a seat belt is the best way to reduce the chance of a fatality in an accident, she added.
Impaired driving is a major problem, she said. Two out of three people will be involved in an OVI accident in their lifetimes. Someone dies because of impaired driving every 15 minutes. The price tag for OVI is $132 billion annually.