By Portia Williams
ASHLAND, Ky. — Kentucky Office of Highway Safety (KOHS) partnered with law enforcement agencies across Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia through Labor Day to reinforce the message of zero tolerance for drunk driving. The effort is part of the nationwide, high-visibility enforcement and educational campaign called ‘Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over.’
Speakers for the event included Chief Robert Ratliff of the Ashland Police Department, Chief Joe Ciccirelli of the Huntington Police Department and Thomas Adams, executive director of Boyd County EMS, who will provided information on the devastating medical effects and expenses of driving while impaired.
Thomas Adams, executive director of Boyd County EMS was the keynote speaker for the event, and shared some of the alcohol-related driving disasters that he has experienced in his 35 years of experience with EMS.
“We see the end result of impaired drivers. We see the people that are injured, we see the damage that is done, and families destroyed,” Adams said. “And if there is anything that can be done to stop that, it has to be done before the accident. So programs like this make our job a lot easier because they save lives. We will never know how many, because we will never know what would have happened if that driver would have kept going, or who they would have killed. Anybody is potentially able to be hit by an impaired driver, and they are stopped with programs like this, then that is the goal.”
Drive Sober of Get Pulled Over Campaign is funded by highway safety offices from the three states and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the DUI-prevention campaign runs now through Sept. 7 and includes increased state and national messaging about the dangers of driving drunk coupled with police checkpoints and increased officers on the road – all aimed to drastically reduce the toll of drunk driving.
“Campaigns like this are important to let people know that police are not just being the ‘bad guy,’ to get out there and take you to jail, ” Sgt. Rob Davis of the Portsmouth Police Deptartment said. “One time in 26 years I had a guy come to me in court and thank me for saving his life. I saved that guy’s life, and he appreciated it. We have got to get the community involved, and to educate them. Especially in our area of Portsmouth, Huntington, Ashland we have bad heroin problems, people taking prescription drugs, and you’ve got to think about that before you get behind the wheel.”
According to KOHS, in 2014 Kentucky recorded more than 4,300 alcohol-related crashes, resulting in 113 deaths and more than 2,000 injuries. These numbers improved from 2013 when there were 5,500 alcohol-related crashes that resulted in 138 deaths and more than 3,000 injuries. Ohio had 12,480 alcohol related crashes that resulted in 291 deaths and 7,029 injuries in 2014.
“This is an annual event where we kick off the Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over Campaign, and it is just an opportunity for us to come together and get the word out that we are going to be aggressively enforcing impaired driving statutes across the tristate,” Chief Rob Ratliff, of the Ashland Police Department said.
Cheryl Parker, Corporate Public Affairs Manager for AAA, said the public needs to be cognizant of impaired drivers on the road with them.
“Impaired driving is a major concern for us as an organization,” Parker said. “And as an advocate for motorists, we see the problem of drivers making the decision to drive not only under the influence of alcohol, but drugs like heroin, and prescription drugs. This is a major threat to traffic safety, and a major threat to the safety of motorists. So we want the public to be concerned. We don’t think that the average person understands who they are on the road with, and there are people on the roads that are literally overdosing on heroine while they are behind the wheel. We have heard stories of motorists doing this with children in their vehicles. So, we want the public to be aware, and if you know of someone under the influence of these substances don’t let them get behind the wheel.”
Following the campaign event at River Front Park Tri-State highway safety officials and law enforcement officers, and child passenger safety advocates and technicians from the Tri-State area at a AAA-sponsored Child Safety Seat Clinic in Russell. The clinic was held Friday at the AAA office, 1200 Diedrich Boulevard in Russell, Ky.During the AAA clinic, parents had the opportunity to find out how to properly install child safety seats and get answers to questions about proper child seats for children.
Reach Portia Williams at 740-353-3101, ext. 1929, or on Twitter @PortiaWillPDT.
Deshaun Bailey, of Kentucky Office of Highway Safety conducting a free child safety seat inspection Friday sponsored by AAA and held at their location in Russell, Ky.