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Be smart and sober as a New Year arrives

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 helped along with a drink or more. There will be so much promise and anticipation for 2021. Especially with vaccines in the offing which will neutralize the dreaded COVID-19 damages which have destroyed families and commerce.

COVID-related restrictions aside, many will celebrate and share good times tonight with family and friends as midnight beckons the fleeting hands of 2020’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. And is there truly anyone out there naive enough to believe that all COVID-related mandates will be observed? By all of those celebrating a New Year tonight? If so, check back with us when you return from your fantasy flight.

Sadly, some will be dead tomorrow across our fine land. Some will end up in the hospital. Some will be in jail trying to figure out what lawyer to contact through a hangover cloud 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 alone 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. And don’t try calling us to keep an arrest report from appearing in print. We do not suppress arrest reports. Even if threatened or offered bribes which has actually happened before.

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. Kids will grow up without a parent, grandparent or maybe even a big brother or sister. How heartbreaking it is 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 from your cell phone or call via a landline at 1-877-7-PATROL. The Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP) will appreciate the gesture.

Of course, tomorrow night will bring Ohio State-Clemson and Alabama-Notre Dame. And, after all, who doesn’t like to have a beer — for many, plural as in beers — when watching games? At least it seems that way for many, doesn’t it? Think of all the people who will be watching those big games 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 and they will again this weekend. That is indisputable. Check that out with the highway patrol, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration. While you are at, ask a cop if there is anything safe about merely driving while buzzed, as it’s called.

A check of the current Ohio State Highway Patrol stats indicate that there has been six 2020 fatalities on Columbiana County roadways. Four of the six were OVI-related. Six people were killed in each of 2019 and 2018. Six of that total were OVI-related. There have been 199 OVI arrests and 70 distracted driving citations. Those compare to respective 2019 figures of 213 and 43.

According to the OSHP, during the four-day reporting period, from Thursday, December 24, at 12 a.m. until Sunday, December 27, at 11:59 p.m., nine people were killed in seven fatal crashes. Sixty-six percent of those killed in fatal crashes over the holiday were not wearing an available safety belt. Using a safety belt remains the single most effective thing you can do to protect yourself in a crash.  Troopers removed 142 impaired drivers from Ohio’s roads during the holiday, which is an increase of 137 percent compared to last year. Twelve people were killed in 2019, which ran from December 23 to 25. In 2018, there were 11 people were killed, which ran from December 21 to 25.

Year-to-date, there have been 1,221 fatalities, up from 1,148 in 2019. Statewide this year, the OHP has made 361,662 enforcement stops compared to 533,196 in 2019. There have been 16,384 OVI enforcements. Now think about all of those driving around impaired who never get caught. Scary, huh? Especially for those of us driving along an Ohio roadway with young children or grandkids in the vehicle.

Highway patrol officers’ mantra of “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” is certainly being enforced. Four deaths in our county due to alcohol-related traffic tragedies is enough. Let’s leave it at that. Who knows how many across our region and state 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. Please take a moment to consider all that is involved with driving and drinking. Go to the state highway patrol website and scan the stats. 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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