Stillwater News Press

August 21, 2013

Officials to crack down on impaired driving

By Megan Sando
Stillwater NewsPress

STILLWATER, Okla. — Drivers aren’t pulled over for just booze anymore. Law enforcement officials say drivers are stopped for mixing alcohol with medication and drugs.

A nationwide campaign is determined to stop impaired driving.

The Oklahoma Highway Patrol is joining with law enforcement agencies across the state and throughout the nation for the “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” campaign Aug. 16 through Sept. 2.

“In this day and age, people are impaired not just with alcohol, but also medication and drug use,”  said OHP Lt. Garrett Vowell, statewide impaired driving enforcement coordinator for the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office. “We’ve increasingly seen people mix beer with pills.”

Payne County Sheriff Captain Kevin Woodward said the county will have deputies working overtime. A grant from the safety office also funded two camera systems for patrol cars to show what happens during an arrest.

The campaign is part of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and is geared toward stopping impaired driving.

Annually, 10,000 people die on the road due to drunken driving, according to the safety administration. In the last five years, Labor Day weekend has seen a spike in drunken driving deaths, claiming more than 800 lives.

“The end of summer shouldn’t mean the end of your life,” according to its website.

Perkins Police Chief Bob Enrst said police have extra patrol to support the campaign.

“Police will be visible and vigilant,” he said. Perkins police have arrested two people since midnight Friday. One person’s blood alcohol concentration level was .29, well over the .08 legal limit.

It is illegal in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico to drive with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or higher.

Because of the crash fatalities reported nationally during this time of year, the campaign is geared toward preventing impaired driving that occurs during the end of summer, at back-to-school parties and on Labor Day weekend. According to the safety administration, 167 people died last year on Labor Day.

In Oklahoma in 2012, four people died in vehicle crashes over the Labor Day weekend. Two of the fatalities occurred in alcohol-related crashes; an additional 17 people were injured in alcohol-related crashes.

“If you plan to drink, always designate a nondrinking driver,” Vowell said. “Drunk driving is a crime, not an accident.”