AMHERST — Drunken driving most typically brings to mind images of inebriated people leaving a bar late at night, getting in their car and thinking they’re fine to make the drive home.
Lorain County Coroner Dr. Stephen Evans verified the hour between 2 and 3 a.m. Friday and Saturday remains the single busiest period for investigating drunken driving deaths and accidents.
“But I also get calls at 7 a.m., 9 a.m., 11 a.m.,” Evans said after Thursday’s kickoff of the county’s 2012 Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign, which seeks to reduce drunken driving accidents and deaths.
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“There isn’t one hour of the day in which I haven’t had fatal vehicle accidents,” said Evans, who urged area law enforcement officials to intensify efforts such as sobriety checkpoints to get impaired drivers off the road.
About two dozen officers from the Sheriff’s Office, Ohio Highway Patrol and local police departments gathered in LifeCare’s ambulance bay in Amherst to hear Evans and others, including Elyria police Lt. Phil Hammonds.
“Alcohol is by far the leading cause of deaths in motor vehicle accidents involving people ages 5 to 34,” Evans said. “The statistics are pretty scary. One in three people in the U.S. will, on average in their lifetime, be involved in a crash with an impaired driver.”
The county had 19 traffic fatalities so far in 2012, which is a marked increase over the same time in 2011, when seven people had died on Lorain County roads.
Set to begin Monday and run through Labor Day, the 2012 Drive Sober effort is tied to a nationwide effort. Hammonds presented statistics that backed up his contention that law enforcement needs to focus on other times of the day besides early morning hours.
Local figures on motor vehicle accidents in 2012 revealed 38 accidents have occurred in the 9 o’clock hour, while 48 to 55 accidents take place between 1 and 5 p.m. The single busiest hour of the day for crashes is 5 to 6 p.m., when 62 accidents occurred.
Figures were not immediately available on the number of accidents involving alcohol or drugs.
January saw the biggest number of accidents so far this year in Elyria, with 130. June ranked second with 113, according to Hammonds.
Sobriety checkpoints continue to be an effective tool in identifying and citing impaired drivers.
The patrol’s Elyria post made a state-leading 600 arrests of impaired drivers January through July, compared to about 480 such arrests during the same period in 2011, according to post commander Lt. Travis Hughes said.
This year’s anti-drunk-driving campaign will use social media, donated radio ad spots and drink coasters at area bars to spread its message.
To learn more, visit LorainCountySafeCommunity.com, @LorainCoHealth Twitter or like the Lorain County General Health District on Facebook.
If you spot an impaired driver …
- Keep a safe distance from the vehicle.
- Don’t pass the vehicle or signal the driver to pull over.
- Get details such as the make, model and color of a vehicle without risking personal safety.
- Give a detailed description of the vehicle and its exact location (road name, nearby landmarks and direction of travel):
Ohio Highway Patrol at (877) 772-8765.
- Lorain County Sheriff’s Office at (440) 323-1212.
Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7146 or firstname.lastname@example.org.