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Published: Saturday, 5/24/2008

Mayor, chief caution drivers to stay sober

Toledo's mayor and police chief yesterday urged motorists to stay sober this holiday weekend to avoid tragic accidents like one in December that left five family members dead on I-280 in a wrong-way crash.

"We each need to ask ourselves if we could live with the burden that we [caused another person's death]," Mayor Carty Finkbeiner said yesterday.

The mayor also urged judges to impose stiffer sentences for repeat drunk-driving offenders.

Toledo police conducted a sobriety checkpoint last night in West Toledo on West Laskey Road between Jackman Road and Lewis Avenue into early this morning and randomly stopped drivers to check for signs of impaired driving.

Michael Gagnon, 24, was found guilty May 9 in Lucas County Common Pleas Court for a wrong-way crash Dec. 30 that killed five members of a Maryland family and seriously injured two others.

He had illegal amounts of alcohol and marijuana in his system at the time, authorities said.

The deadly crash occurred on southbound I-280 near the Manhattan Boulevard overpass.

Police Chief Mike Navarre said there were 31 fatal accidents in Toledo in 2007 that resulted in 38 deaths.

The chief said about 50 percent of the city's accidents involve alcohol use versus about 35 percent nationally.

Toledo police arrested 535 people for driving under the influence in 2007.

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