Delaware County launches holiday campaign to prevent drunk driving
The Pennsylvania DUI Association’s 30-foot DUI Victims' Moving Memorial was stationed at the Delaware County Courthouse on Wednesday to raise awareness about the dangers of driving while impaired and to provide a quiet place to remember the victims while sending a message to motorists not to drink and drive during the holiday season.
Delaware County Council, the District Attorney, area law enforcement officials and Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) in conjunction with representatives from PennDOT held a press conference to announce the County’s participation in DUI enforcement through the upcoming holidays.
Delaware County collaborated with Street Smarts and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation to “raise awareness to the Delaware County community about drinking and impaired driving,” said Street Smarts Health Educator Lauren Amway.
Street Smarts, The Regional Highway Traffic Safety Project, handed out pamphlets and organized activities to engage passersby in the initiative to end accidents caused by individuals driving under the influence.
December is one of the most notorious months for arrests, accidents and deaths involving alcohol or other drugs because of a heightened amount of parties, social gatherings and other holiday celebrations. Delaware County Law enforcement officials will be conducting roving patrols and DUI checkpoints on area roadways.
“Good people can make bad decisions - that's often the case when otherwise responsible adults choose to get behind the wheel after drinking,” said County Councilman Dave White. “But it only takes a split second - a car braking too quickly or a child chasing a ball into the street - for that bad decision to change a life forever.”
PennDOT and police statewide are joining forces for "Operation Safe Holiday," an initiative including seat-belt, aggressive-driving and impaired-driving enforcement aimed at keeping roadways safe this holiday season.
The operation is under way, beginning with statewide Click It or Ticket seat-belt enforcement. Through the New Year, police will also use sobriety checkpoints, roving patrols and regular traffic safety patrols to crack down on motorists who are speeding, driving aggressively or driving while impaired by drugs or alcohol.
“No one thinks that their holiday celebration will end in tragedy. But for those who include alcohol in their celebrations and then get behind the wheel, this is too often the case,” said Linda Sposato, Victim Services Specialist for MADD. “Drunk driving deaths and injuries are 100% preventable, so do your part this holiday season by choosing to drive safe and sober and help others do the same. If you need to call a cab, you can dial # Taxi. It can detect your location and connect you to the first available taxi no matter where you’re calling from in North America.”
Representatives from MADD distributed red ribbons to encourage people not to drink and drive. Sposato encouraged individuals to tie a MADD red ribbon on their vehicle to show a commitment to driving safe and sober.
PennDOT reports that the holiday season continues to be the leading time period for traffic accidents. There were 4,235 accidents and 49 fatalities in 2011 during the Thanksgiving travel period, which includes the weekends before and after the holiday. During the Christmas and New Year travel periods, there were a combined 1,994 accidents and 19 fatalities. These tragedies devastate the lives of tens of thousands of families, friends, neighbors and coworkers.
“We have seen some tragic accidents in our county as a result of alcohol. We are seeing a decline in those accidents but still we see too many too often,” White said. “When we see tragedy, we as a community need to answer questions, raise awareness, and prevent these tragedies from occurring."
District Attorney Jack Whelan commented on the job done by the Pennsylvania DUI Association, PennDOT and police officers around the county to curb the tragic effects of drinking and driving.
“The fact that we are educating the public about the dangers of driving under the influence is making a difference. The more we can educate the public, the more the public becomes aware of the danger of drinking and driving,” Whelan said. “DUIs happen all year long, but we wanted to kick-off this outreach effort during a time of year when people let their guard down concerning the number of drinks they consume. We want them to have responsible fun, but be mindful of the impact DUIs can have on their lives.”
The DUI Moving Memorial trailer is a replica of the permanent DUI Victims’ Memorial Park that is located at the Pennsylvania DUI Association’s headquarters in Harrisburg. The Moving Memorial is housed in a 30-foot trailer, interior of which is hand painted with a beautiful garden scene. The interior features a 25-foot wall printed with 1,000 names of DUI Victims that have been honored in the Memorial Garden, and is the focal point of the memorial. The interior replicates an outdoor setting in tribute to the original, but stationary, DUI Victims Memorial Garden. This mobile memorial allows those who may not be able to travel to Harrisburg to still view the Memorial Garden.
As you prepare for the holiday season, follow these 4 steps to protect the people you care about:
1. Designate a sober driver. Before leaving for a party or social gathering, select one person who will refrain from drinking, or arrange for a safe ride home. Designated drivers should be completely sober, not just the most sober person in your group.
2. Speak up if someone's too drunk to drive. If the designated driver does end up drinking, suggest that he or she let someone else take the wheel. If he or she insists on driving, don't hesitate to find another way home.
3. Communicate calmly and effectively. Avoid using a confrontational tone. Instead, make it clear you're looking out for your friend's interests. Remind him or her about police on the road and that a DUI would cause them a lot of trouble. If that doesn't work, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration suggests taking the driver's keys while he or she is preoccupied.
4. Call a taxi or Safe Ride Program. Taxi services and designated driver programs are available in many communities. These programs provide late night rides and help ensure that everyone gets home safely.
For more information on how you can see the moving memorial, visit www.padui.org