Drinking and driving is the best way to start a bad year

Drinking and driving is the best way to start a bad year

After reading “None for the Road” in Tuesday’s Vindicator, a reader might conclude that the worst thing that could happen to a driver over the holiday weekend would be an arrest for drunken driving.

Reporter Peter Milliken listed the various expenses and inconveniences attached to an arrest for Driving Under the Influence — from the lawyer’s fee to the monthly charge for being on probation — and the grand total averaged $7,500.

What could be a more crushing holiday downer than that? How about being one of the drunken drivers who cheats the arresting officer, but loses to the grim reaper.

As expensive as an arrest will be this weekend for hundreds of drunken drivers in Ohio, it’s almost certain that a few will kill themselves tonight, and they’re likely to take innocent people with them.

The Ohio State Highway Patrol reports that during each of the last two years, 10 people died in six traffic crashes during the holiday weekend. In five out of the six crashes, the driver was impaired.

This carnage continues despite aggressive policing procedures by the patrol and local police departments, not just around the holidays, but throughout the year.

There has been improvement, to be sure, but any death due to a driver getting behind the wheel while impaired or intoxicated is avoidable.

Of course, no one sets out thinking they will be the one to kill or be killed. But some do.

No one turns the key believing he or she will get pulled over and locked up before getting home. But hundreds do.

Arrests by the hundreds

The state patrol reports 648 DUI arrests in Mahoning County so far this year, compared to 612 for the same period in 2008. In Trumbull County, it is 563, compared to 548 a year earlier.

The luckiest of them won’t be involved in an accident and will be first-time offenders who will spend three days in residential classroom setting rather than jail. And if they are smart, they will learn their lesson.

Those for whom once is not enough, the consequences get increasingly severe. Recently, Trumbull County Common Pleas Judge Peter Kontos sentenced a 42-year-old Niles man to five years in jail for his sixth conviction for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. A driver who has five or more convictions within a 20-year period faces felony charges and up to 71‚Ñ2 years in prison. State law was beefed up and judges, aware of tragic cases in which habitual drunken drivers have killed innocent people, are giving fewer breaks than in years past.

Being arrested while drunk behind the wheel is much more likely to be a life-changing experience than it would have been in years past. There is nothing happy about a new year that begins with an arrest for drunken driving — or worse. So it’s a good idea for every reveler to make a resolution before leaving the house tonight that they either won’t drink, or they won’t drive.

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