Our New Year message: Don’t Drink and Drive!

The message is one we feel obliged to repeat this time each year. There are some people across our country, across our state and across our own area who will awaken today with a brand new year in the offing. There will be so much promise and anticipation for 2019.

These folks will celebrate and share good times tonight with family and friends as midnight beckons the fleeting hands of 2018’s clock. They will sing –or slur — along to “Auld Lang Syne.” Even if they don’t know all of the words. Which, actually, most of us couldn’t recite while sober.

Sadly, some will be dead tomorrow. Some will end up in the hospital. Some will be in jail trying to figure out what lawyer to contact through a hangover of alcohol and embarrassment. Not to mention checking their bank account to see if they have enough to cover bond, a lawyer and fine. Then there always is the shame factor. Those of in the newsroom over the years can attest to the stark reality that there are those out there busted for DUI who are more concerned about their names appearing in print or online than the fact they could’ve been killed — or killed others — while impaired. That is the truth and that is a very distorted way of looking at things. And, yes, arrests are public record. If you get arrested tonight, tomorrow, whenever, your name will appear on our pages as will your subsequent court appearance. Consider that a deterrent before going out today without, perhaps, taking a pause about drinking and driving. You have seen the names on our pages. Do you think a single person out there has ever taken pride in seeing his or her name in print for an arrest? Thought so.

Today — especially tonight into the wee hours — lives will be lost or damaged through mangled wrecks on highways across our fine land. Calls will be made to loved ones. Loved ones will go to morgues, to hospitals or to a jail to help post bond. Innocent people who happened to be at the wrong spot on the wrong roadway when a drunk came barreling in their direction will be hurt or killed. Lives will be forever altered. How heartbreaking is it to realize how many young lives are lost or destroyed by drunk drivers. Each and everyone an innocent victim. And for what? The worst hangover is having one in a jail cell or hospital emergency room.

Drunk drivers will be scattered around our roadways tonight and into tomorrow’s wee hours like confetti flying around as the clock hits midnight. If you are and out about tonight, how confident can you really be that the car coming toward you hugging the center line isn’t operated by someone who has had too much to drink? Even if they think they didn’t. Which many drunks seem to believe. Unnerving, isn’t it? (Also, should you see a drunk driver, use #677 to report it). The Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP) will appreciate the gesture.

To compound the dangerous situation, many will get an early start on their drinking with bowl season well under way. Ohio State plays Washington on New Year’s Day at 5 p.m. There are other big games today and tomorrow. After all, who doesn’t like to have a beer — for many, plural as in beers — when watching big games? At least it seems that way for many, doesn’t it? Think of all the people who will be watching the Rose Bowl, for instance, while drinking. And then trying to drive afterwards. Go ahead and shudder.

New Year’s Eve and Day rank with the deadliest alcohol-impaired driving days on our yearly calendar. That is indisputable. Check that out with the highway patrol, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration.

Through last Monday, the Ohio State Highway Patrol reported 26,100 arrests for OVI and 16,680 for drug violations during 609,971 enforcement stops in 2018. The respective figures for Columbiana County are 219 and 181. Highway patrol officers’ mantra of “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” is certainly being enforced.

Two people have died in our county during 2018 due to alcohol-related traffic tragedies. Let’s leave it at that. Who knows how many have been maimed and severely injured? The point here isn’t to preach. That can be insulting. More like inform and remind. We hope at least some of you can appreciate that.

Perhaps the most scariest: An average drunk driver has driven drunk 80 times before first arrest. Goodness! Think of how many close calls there has to be. Think of how the law of averages is lurking and ready to pounce.

According to the Ohio State Highway Patrol, as of yesterday, 1,051 people have been killed on Ohio roadways this year. There were nine fatalities over the Christmas weekend. Three were OVI-related. From midnight Dec. 21 through 11:59 p.m. Dec. 25, troopers made 4,600 enforcement contacts including 404 OVI arrests, 164 drugs arrests and 635 seat belt citations. Yep, Santa Claus and his elves weren’t the only ones busy during that time. Like during the Christmas period, the always dutiful and vigilant OSHP will again be out in full force this afternoon and into the wee hours doing its best in removing dangerous and impaired drivers.

We just threw a lot of stats and numbers at you. But take a moment to absorb and process them. Shouldn’t take longer than it does to suck down a beer or two. If all of this doesn’t deter you from overdoing then what in the world would? If you are in a bad way tonight, don’t think coffee, a cold splash of water on the face or one of those overpriced caffeine-infused drinks you get at the front counter of a corner store will sober you up quickly. And, no, popping a couple breath mints isn’t going to fool a cop who is about to pull you over.

C’mon, you are smarter than that. Get a designated driver actually committed to staying sober throughout the evening. Call a taxi. Have your favorite bartender(s) get a ride for you. If possible spend the night wherever you are going to be. Beats spending the night in jail or in the hospital. And it surely beats ending up in the morgue. Around here we call that a grave consequence.

Granted, it is unfathomable to think that anyone ever sets out to deliberately drink enough during a given time period to become legally drunk. Some think it will never happen to them. Often it is a good person making a single bad, sometimes life-altering decision. None of us are above that reality.

But, please, play it smart tonight. If so, simply awakening safely tomorrow morning will be reason enough to celebrate the beginning of a fresh new year. Keep your name out of our arrests reports. And certainly out of our obituaries listings. It is dreadful to even ponder. But certainly do so. Cars keys and empty alcohol glasses, bottles and cans do not go together. Have a safe, sober and Happy New Year’s eve and day.

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