By Kristen Talerico
Times West Virginian
“Buzzed driving is drunk driving.”
This message can be seen on billboards and in advertisements all over the county, but officials say it’s especially important on New Year’s Eve.
With the help of two grants, the Governor’s Highway Safety Program and Communities on Drunk Driving, Marion County has been able to beef up its DUI patrol and checkpoints.
Georgia Hatfield, regional program director of the Governors Highway Safety Program, said this program helps the Marion County Sheriff’s Department with funding, allowing it to provide the community with more officers on duty to keep people safe from impaired drivers.
She said this grant is renewed every quarter and really heightens the awareness to people who think they can drink and drive.
“They do not need to be on the highway if they have been drinking, and the person driving is saving themselves from harming others,” Hatfield said.
“Both of these grants have been able to provide the sheriff’s department with money for overtime, allowing five or six more officers to be out at any given time looking for potential drunk drivers,” added Chief Deputy Ralph Wright of the Marion County Sheriff’s Department.
While there is no average age for individuals who are issued DUIs, Wright said overall there has been a decrease in the Marion County area. This is in direct
correlation with the two grants and the sheriff’s department’s ability to let citizens know law enforcement officers are out there.
One drink turns into three very quickly for people, said Wright, and it is always important to be aware of your surroundings. He said safe drivers are only a phone call away.
Plus, those who risk driving while under the influence also risk being caught.
“We will have a normal amount of patrol out during New Year’s Eve and will be on the lookout for impaired drivers,” White Hall Police Chief Geno Guerrieri said.
Guerrieri reminded citizens that “it is OK to have a good time, but always designate a driver.”
Email Kristen Talerico at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @KTalericoTWV.