Local communities and police departments are joining forces this month to take part in the national "Drive sober or get pulled over" campaign. A kick off took place on Monday at the Canfield Police Station.
"This is one of our major campaigns," said Susan Viars from Mahoning Safe Communities Coalition. "It will be ongoing across the nation through Labor Day."
Viars said the Labor Day weekend normally has an increase in impaired drivers. While that weekend is the climax of the problem, police have already begun increased patrols. The Canfield Highway Patrol Post is one of the many agencies that has already begun the increased patrols.
Photo by J.T. Whitehouse, Town Crier
Canfield Police Assistant Chief Scott Weamer, Lt. Nakia Hendrix from the Canfield Post of the Ohio Highway Patrol, and Susan Viars from Mahoning Safe Communities Coalition held a press conference on Monday to kick off the “Drive sober, or get pulled over” campaign in the Velley. From now until Labor Day, police departments will step up patrols for impaired drivers in an effort to make the roads safer.
"We will increase our efforts with more troopers on the road," said Lt. Nakia Hendrix from the Canfield Post. "We are also asking the public to be our eyes and ears."
He said by pressing #677, a motorist can reach the Canfield Post instantly when they spot an impaired driver. Hendrix said they will dispatch a cruiser to apprehend the driver. While the easy-to-remember number can help get impaired motorists off the road, Hendrix said they prefer to educate the public ahead of time about the dangers of drinking and the getting behind the wheel.
As part of that education, Viars group is getting involved with vehicle magnets that say "Drive sober or get pulled over."
"Education is an important part of this campaign," she said.
The vehicle magnets and informational pamphlets are part of the materials supplied through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which is behind the effort to cut down and prevent alcohol-related crashes and fatalities.
Canfield police Assistant Chief Scott Weamer said local efforts are making a difference. The Canfield Police Department is administrator for this year's OVI Task Force grants.
"We are proud to administer this grant," he said. "Our goal is to make our roads safe through education and enforcement."
To date, the OVI Task Force has conducted 11 checkpoints, 11 traffic blitzes, and several saturation patrols. In the 2012 grant year that began in November of 2011, the task force had 184 alcohol-related crashes through July. This grant year, which began in November last year, the to-date number stand at 101 so far, representing a 45 percent decrease. Weamer said fatalities in the same nine months were reduced by 67 percent.
"We're encouraged by those numbers," Weamer said, "but there is a need to do more."
While local police will be on the road through Labor Day, the members of the coalition will be continuing their educational program at this year's Canfield Fair. They will have a display set up near the Fair Office that will let people experience first-hand what impaired means.
"We will have our impaired glasses that people can put on and try their hand at simple skills," she said.
Last year, fairgoers put on the glasses and tried their hand at cornhole. Many were amazed how their reflexes would not work well when their vision was impaired.
"Most people are responsible behind the wheel," said Weamer.
He said this year's blitzes, checkpoints, and saturation patrols have resulted in 65 OVI arrests so far. On the good side, 5,211 motorists made what he called, "a good decision."
"The bottom line is that if you are going to drink and drive, there are consequences," he said. "Our goal is to make the roads safe because one life lost is one too many."