Local officials and law enforcement are urging county residents not to drink and drive as the Labor Day weekend approaches.
The SAFE Delaware County Coalition held an event Friday at the Concord Township Fire Station and reminded the public that the upcoming weekend is one of the most dangerous times of the year to be on the road.
“Labor Day weekend (is) one of the deadliest times of year in terms of impaired driving fatalities,” said Jackie Bain, SAFE Coalition coordinator.
Lieutenant Eric Caudill, commander of the Delaware post of the Ohio State Highway Patrol, said over the past year there have been 521 OVI arrests, a 21% increase over the year before. Caudill added there have been 226 OVI crashes in a year’s time that have resulted in over 100 injuries and 10 deaths.
“We continue to have a significant problem here in Delaware County,” he said. “We can’t fight this battle against impaired driving alone. We need the community’s commitment to make our roads safe by being responsible and planning ahead.”
Caudill urged people to come up with a plan before they become impaired, and he encouraged people to appoint a designated driver or contact a car service to get home instead of driving drunk.
“Do anything other than get behind the wheel,” Caudill said. “Your life and the life of others are at risk if you do not have a responsible plan.”
Caudill said if anyone suspects a driver may be impaired while behind the wheel, they can report the driver by calling #677 or 911.
“Your actions could help save someone’s life,” he said.
Bain said choosing to take the risks and drive drunk should make a person “reevaluate themselves and their situation for some alcohol abuse or substance abuse disorder.”
She added people deny they have a problem until something serious happens.
“It’s a criminal offense, and it may lead to jail time, heavy fines or more tragically, the loss of health or life due to a motor vehicle crash,” Bain said. “Many recognize the need to seek help when they finally face legal consequences.”
Delaware County Prosecutor Melissa Schiffel said impaired drivers in Delaware County will be prosecuted.
“We don’t give get out of jail free cards to individuals who are caught driving impaired,” Schiffel said. “We don’t reduce first-time offenders to a reckless operation. In Delaware County, we hold you accountable to the fullest extent of the law. God forbid you harm someone or you kill them. I will find a place in prison for you for the selfish action you choose when you decided to get behind the wheel while you are impaired.”
Delaware County resident Rob Nicolosi, who also spoke at the event, said he was driving impaired when he crashed his car into a telephone pole in 1979 and injured another person.
“That’s something I’ve had to live with for the rest of my life. It just impacted me immensely,” he said.
Nicolosi said that in early August, he celebrated 20 years of sobriety after being in recovery for 33 years. He took a moment during the event to encourage others to seek help.
“Today my life is better,” Nicolosi said. “You have a choice. Your choice is be institutionalized, you can be dead, or you can choose the recovery side. There’s a lot of sadness out there, and they don’t have to go through this but they do. It’s a decision. You have to want it. I’ve seen a lot of young kids throw their life away for no reason.”
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.