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Safety Matters: Alcohol Awareness Month

SPRINGVILLE — Forty years ago, the social stigma from driving while intoxicated was nearly non-existent. It was not unusual for police to just follow a person, to make sure he or she got home safely, or the slightly better practice of just driving them home – to drink and drive another day.

Thankfully, this has changed and society is supporting, even demanding, stricter enforcement and harsher penalties, for offenders.

I’m writing about this now because April is Alcohol Awareness Month and I want to, once again, shine a spotlight on the dangers of drinking and driving. Erie County deputies have arrested more than 80 people, so far, this year, for driving drunk on our area roadways. At this rate, our 2013 DWI arrests will exceed 300, for the third consecutive year.

Many of those arrested will learn, after their first DWI arrest, while others continue to push their luck, forgetting that a second DWI conviction is a felony.

Drunk driving is now the most frequently indicted felony in Erie County. The only difference between a drunk driver and one with a felony conviction is luck.

If a pedestrian is killed, after running out between two parked cars, into the path of any drunk driver, the driver will probably be going to jail with a felony vehicular manslaughter conviction; same initial crime – drunk driving – with different outcomes, that cannot be foreseen by the driver.

The most common definition of luck is “the seemingly chance happening of events which affect you.” Are you willing to trust your freedom and future to just luck?

Too many people do exactly that. More than 10,000 die, each year, as a result of accidents caused by alcohol impaired drivers, a number nearly identical to those killed by the illegal use of firearms. The financial loss caused by drunk driving is approximately 37 billion dollars, annually.

Please refrain from drinking, while driving. There are plenty of options out there, for you, your family members or friends to take advantage of. Make plans for a safe ride home, even before you head out, and then stick to them.

You owe that to yourself, your family and your fellow citizens, that you pass on the highways.

We’ve come a long way, in 40 years, regarding the stigma of DWI, but we still have a lot more ground to cover. Let’s cover it safely.

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