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OSHP urging motorists to drive sober

T-L Photo/CARRI GRAHAM Ohio State Highway Patrol Lt. Maurice Waddell, right, and Sgt. Brian McFarland stand in front of the St. Clairsville Post Monday afternoon. The OSHP is in the midst of its Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign to deter intoxicated driving in anticipation of the Labor Day weekend.

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — As Labor Day approaches, the Ohio State Highway Patrol is conducting its annual Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign in an effort to deter intoxicated and distracted driving.

Lt. Maurice Waddell, commander of the patrol’s St. Clairsville Post, said the campaign that began Aug. 26 and continues until Monday is meant to educate the public on the dangers of impaired driving.

“It’s a yearly campaign that is held in conjunction with the Labor Day reporting period,” he said.

“The importance of this event is to educate the public and motorists about the increasing problem of impaired driving. It’s not just alcohol anymore, we’re also seeing a significant increase in drugged driving,” he said.

Troopers are focusing on removing impaired and reckless drivers from the roadways to ensure other motorists’ safety. Waddell said troopers also will be on the lookout for speed and safety belt violations.

“With the Labor Day weekend, we’re going to have troopers out working federal overtime hours on Interstate 70, especially within the safety corridor. They’ll be looking for speed violations, distracted driving, OVI and safety belt violations,” he said.

The OSHP typically sees an increase in intoxicated driving during holidays including Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day, Waddell said. However, the past two holidays there have been fewer motorists on the roadways. The number of citations for operating a vehicle intoxicated this year have also slightly declined, possibly due to COVID-19 and a connected decrease in traffic, he said.

“The traffic volume has been significantly lower, so if it does increase this holiday (Labor Day), hopefully people exercise caution and make good decisions,” he said.

In Belmont and Monroe counties there have been 213 OVI arrests this year. Additionally, between July and August there have been four fatal crashes.

“That’s definitely a trend that we don’t want to continue going into Labor Day weekend or throughout the rest of the year,” he said.

At this same time last year, there had been 284 OVI arrests made and 12 fatal crashes, he said.

Waddell said the patrol is encouraging residents to designate a sober driver if they are planning to attend various holiday events or visit bars.

“We always want people to wear theri safety belts and designate drivers. You just never know when you’re going to get in a crash. That’s one thing you can do to help protect yourself, buckling up,” he said. “It’s also always a good idea to designate a driver if you are going out.”

Waddell said he also wants to remind motorists to keep their eyes and focus on the road while driving.

“I think the biggest thing, along with impaired driving, distracted driving continues to be a huge problem. When people think of distracted driving, the number one thing that comes to their mind is texting while driving. While that’s still a problem, there are still other distractions that keep people’s eyes and focus off the roadway,” he said. “When that happens, you’re not only jeopardizing your own safety, but also the safety of others around you.”

If residents witness impaired or reckless driving, Waddell said he encourages them to call the local post or dial #677 to report the incident.

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