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OVI Task Force kicks off campaign to make roads safer

August 21, 2019
J.T. Whitehouse , The Town Crier

The Labor Day holiday and end of summer brings an increase in highway travel and drunk driving, according to Canfield Police Sgt. Josh Wells. He was one of three area officers that came together last week to announce the kickoff of the "Drive sober or get pulled over" campaign that will run between Aug. 14 and Sept. 2.

"This is a high visibility campaign," Wells said. "Participating agencies will be out in force."

He said participating agencies in the Mahoning County OVI Task Force include Austintown, Beaver, Boardman, Canfield, Goshen, Jackson, Mahoning County Sheriff's Office, Mill Creek Park Police, Milton, New Middletown, Poland Township, Springfield, Youngstown, and the Youngstown State University Campus Police. Also partnering for the collaborative effort are the Ohio Highway Patrol, Mahoning Safe Communities, the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT), Mahoning County Emergency Management Agency, and Eastgate Regional Council of Governments.

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Sgt. Jeff Churilla from Austintown Police, Sgt. Josh Wells from Canfield Police, and Sgt. Pat Abel from the Canfield Post of the Highway Patrol met on Thursday to announce the kick off of the 'drive sober or get pulled over' campaign that will also feature extra patrols for the coming two weeks.

Wells said he appreciates the efforts of ODOT, who helps set up checkpoints that keep the officers safe while diverting vehicles.

Wells said the cost of drunk driving is high across the country. Statistics show one-third of traffic crash fatalities in the United States involve drunk drivers. In 2017, 10,874 people were killed in these preventable crashes. Within the county there were 376 crashes in 2017 with 44 percent involving a drunk driver.

"We are hoping to change the behavior of the motoring public to help them make better decisions about drinking and driving," Wells said. "Consider using alternatives such as designated drivers, Uber, DD for Hire, or a taxi."

Another concern for the saturation patrols will be seat belt use and distracted driving.

"Distracted driving is just as bad as impaired driving," said Sgt. Pat Abel from the Highway Patrol's Canfield Post. "It only takes one second to send a text. It only takes one second to cause a crash."

Over the saturation period, the increased saturation patrols will be looking for impaired and distracted drivers, as well as seat belt violations. The increased patrols will be covered through Federal dollars provided to the OVI Task Force. Some communities like Austintown will have additional grants to increase patrols, according to Sgt. Jeff Churilla from Austintown PD.

The OVI Task Force is also planning to have several checkpoints around the county during the mobilization period.



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