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If you imbibe, dont drive
Authorities focus on alcohol-related crashes as New Years Eve approaches
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Tonight, many area residents will celebrate New Year’s Eve. Many of those celebrations will involve alcohol.
“We ask all the citizens of Barton County please celebrate the coming of the new year responsibly and wish everyone a happy and prosperous 2014,” said Barton County Sheriff Brian Bellendir.
“The Sheriff’s Office will have extra officers out on patrol will be actively looking for impaired drivers,” Bellendir said. Officers will also give rides to the individual persons who may be impaired if they have no other means of transportation. This applies only outside of corporate city limits and we will only take the person to their residence.
Over 10,000 people were killed in alcohol-related crashes in 2012, representing 31 percent of all motor vehicle deaths, according to the National Highway Safety Administration. That’s one every 51 minutes. In Kansas, nearly 3,000 crashes and a third of all Kansas fatalities involve alcohol.
For the New Year’s Eve holiday, according to KDOT accident statistics, nine percent of all crashes over the past five years are alcohol-related. However, 15 percent of all injuries and 50 percent of the motor vehicle fatalities during the Kansas New Year’s holiday have been alcohol-related over the past five years.
“We just want to remind everybody that in rural Kansas most fatal accidents occur on rural roads rather than state and federal highways,” Bellendir said. “We want drivers to be particularly careful if there driving in rural areas.”
“AAA members identify ‘impaired driving’ as one of their top safety concerns,” said James Hanni, executive vice president of public affairs, AAA Allied Group. “In Kansas, someone is involved in an alcohol crash every two and one-half hours,” Hanni said. According to NHTSA, of those killed in alcohol-impaired crashes last year, 65 percent were a driver with blood-alcohol content (BAC) of .08+ or higher. Passengers and occupants of other vehicles made up 27 percent, “which demonstrates how impaired driving should concern all of us,” he said. The highest percentage of drivers with BAC level .08 or higher was for drivers ages 21 to 24 (32 percent). Out of the .08+ BAC driver fatalities for which restraint use was known in 2012, 70 percent were unrestrained, demonstrating multiple destructive behaviors. 59 percent of the drivers involved in fatal crashes who had been drinking had a BAC of .15 or greater, over twice the current legal limit.
With New Year’s Eve approaching, and for these reasons, AAA wishes to call attention to the importance of planning ahead for driving, year-round. “We think it’s a great time to call attention to year-round safety practices because drinking and driving just do not mix,” Hanni said. AAA offers the following:
• If you plan to drink, don’t drive. If you plan to drive, don’t drink.
• Plan  to designate a driver or arrange a ride in advance. Designating a driver does not mean picking the person who has had the least amount to drink.
• Never ride as a passenger in a car driven by someone who has been drinking alcohol – even after just one drink.
• Don’t hesitate to take the keys from friends or family members who may be impaired.
• If you encounter an impaired driver on the road, keep a safe distance and ask a passenger to call 911.