The holding cells at Oregon’s police station may be empty now, but that’s likely to change with increased traffic patrols in search of drunken holiday revelers.
“You don’t know if you’ve had too much to drink [to be able to drive safely], but you should always err on the side of caution,” Oregon police Chief Mike Navarre said of those who risk buzzed driving. “Our officers are going to be out there. They will be looking for you. They are going to stop you. And they are going to take you to jail.”
Chief Navarre spoke during a news conference at the police station. The 15-minute event followed a brief demonstration of the station’s three holding cells, which were empty Thursday morning.
Titled “Buzzed Driving is Drunk Driving — Holiday Edition,” the event aimed to increase public awareness of driving fatality rates peaking during holiday periods and “serve as a reminder to plan ahead and get home safely,” according to Jamie Blazevich, the Lucas County traffic safety program coordinator for the Educational Service Center of Lake Erie West, the event organizer.
According to the Lucas County Traffic Safety Program, 34 people were killed in vehicular crashes in 2015. Forty-five percent of those involved a driver impaired by alcohol or drugs.
“I know officers will stop individuals [for driving under the influence] and [those stopped] will tell them that they have never done this before and that this is the first time that they are driving drunk,” Chief Navarre said. “And that’s not true, because they don’t get caught the first time they’ve done it. They’ve probably done it a dozen times or fifty times before they get stopped.”
Chief Navarre said about a third of traffic deaths in the country are alcohol or drug-related and that every hour about one person is killed in a drug or alcohol-related crash, which is “overwhelming.” He added that the department has funds from state grants for increased traffic patrolling during the holiday season.
“Please, please do not make a bad choice in [this] holiday season,” said Nicole Knepper, trauma educator and prevention coordinator at Mercy Health St. Vincent Medical Center. “You can end up behind bars. You can end up in the back of an ambulance. You can end up in an emergency room, in an operating room, or in a body bag on your way to the morgue.”
Attending the news conference were about 16 representatives of area law enforcement agencies, the Lucas County OVI Task Force, the Lucas County Traffic Safety Program, Mercy Health St. Vincent Medical Center, and Black & White Transportation Co. The Lucas County Traffic Safety Program is directed by a coalition of police, hospital, business, and community leaders.
“The message to those [buzzed] folks out there is use a designated driver, use a taxi, use Uber, use a friend, use the bus, or walk,” Chief Navarre said. “Don’t get into that car because bad things are going to happen.”
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