By MORGAN MANNS
Drunk driving: over the limit, under arrest.
Stay alive, don’t drink and drive.
Drive sober or get pulled over.
Over the years, there have been many slogans slapped onto billboards and engraved in the minds of drivers to remind them to not drive while under the influence of alcohol.
According to the Ohio State Highway Patrol, in 2013, more than 11,200 OVI-related — operating a vehicle while intoxicated — crashes occurred on Ohio roads, resulting in 330 deaths and 6,843 injuries. OVI-related crashes accounted for 33 percent of all fatal crashes in Ohio.
Of those fatal and injury crashes, Wood County accounted for 49, Hancock County had 33, and 24 were in Seneca County.
Half of the 22 OVI-related injury crashes and one of the two OVI-related fatal crashes in Seneca County occurred in the Fostoria area.
These numbers are slightly up from 2012, which saw nine OVI-related injury crashes and one fatal OVI-related crash in the area.
According to Fostoria Police Capt. Patrick Brooks, the department issued 60 citations/arrests for OVIs within the city in 2013.
“Unfortunately that’s more than we want,” he said. “But (the department) is constantly working to keep impaired drivers off the roads.”
An OVI is a first-degree misdemeanor, according to Brooks. The level of the penalty depends on the number of prior violations the subject has within a certain time period and includes six points added to the license, license suspension, arrest, loss of job and fines.
“It’s not unrealistic for the fines for first-offense (OVIs) who are found guilty to reach well above $3,000, sometimes almost $4,000,” he said.
After four OVIs, the crime is considered a felony.
The term OVI is interchangeable with DUI, or driving under the influence, and DWI, or driving while impaired.
Brooks said generally officers look for erratic driving behavior when determining whether a driver is impaired, including weaving, stopping too quickly, not stopping soon enough, overcompensation and other types of inconsistent driving patterns.
“There are a lot of behaviors we look at to determine whether or not the person appears to be driving under the influence,” he said. “Sometimes it’s as blatant as people running over curbs and other times its subtle things like people who look dead, staring straight ahead when driving.”
The current blood alcohol content (BAC) limit is .08 percent for adults and .02 percent for commercial drivers and juveniles.
The general rule of thumb for alcohol intake to reach .08 percent is it takes approximately one hour for the body to process one 12-ounce beer out of the system, according to Brooks. However, it varies with the type of alcoholic beverage, how fast the individual consumes that beverage, and the body mass and weight of the individual.
BAC levels can also be affected by certain drugs, according to Brooks.
“There was a female who was weaving all over the road; we received several calls on her and she seemed very impaired,” he recalled. “She tested .02 on the breath test, which is well under the legal limit. It turns out she was under the influence of narcotic prescription drugs. She wasn’t abusing, she just was taking the medication and it impaired her driving.”
Brook advised she was cited for driving under the influence of drugs because her driving was so negatively affected.
The most common form of testing an individual’s BAC is by administering a breath test, according to Brooks. However, law enforcement officers also test BAC levels through blood tests and urine tests.
Brooks said the department has given OVIs to 15-year-olds all the way up to 60- to 70-year-olds and that the most common age group is 20-30.
Drivers aged 21-35 received 52 percent of all OVI citations written by OSHP troopers in 2013, while underage drivers (ages 15-20) accounted for eight percent.
Male drivers were the recipients of 74 percent of OVI citations.
In a press releases from the Fremont and Findlay posts of the OSHP, Lt. Matthew Meredith and Lt. Matt Crow, respectively, advised that more than 24,000 citations were issued by troopers for OVIs in 2013.
“We can’t fight the battle against impaired driving on our own. We need your commitment to make our roads safe,” they both said in separate releases. “You can contribute to a safer Ohio by actively influencing friends and family to make safe, responsible decisions, like planning ahead to designate a driver and insisting that everyone in the vehicle is buckled up.”
Last year, state troopers from the Fremont post arrested 375 impaired drivers in Sandusky and Seneca Counties, while state troopers from the Findlay post arrested 338 impaired drivers and investigated 73 crashes involving impaired drivers.
The local police department isn’t currently engaged in any programs specifically designed to prevent drinking and driving. However, Brooks said officers are always “actively seeking out OVIs” throughout their shifts, especially those on the afternoon or midnight shift.
“We’re constantly trying to fight crime within the city, whether that is impaired drivers or people who are moving, dealing and buying drugs,” he said. “We’re focusing on keeping Fostoria citizens safe.”
For more information on statewide and county-wide OVI enforcement, visit www.statepatrol.ohio.gov.
To report impaired drivers, drug activity or stranded vehicles, contact the local police department, sheriff’s office or highway patrol post.