On Your Side: How to spot and avoid impaired drivers on St. Patrick's Day

Ohio is above national average for drunk driving

CLEVELAND - Cleveland's 147th annual St. Patrick's Day parade is Monday, but some people are already celebrating.

That's also why Cleveland police are encouraging everyone to stay safe this weekend, or else.

While each case depends on a judge, it's a mandatory sentence, fees and your car most likely impounded for first time offenders caught driving drunk. And, they will get caught says Patrol Officer George Kwan.

“Cleveland in general.  The county - Cuyahoga County, I think it's an educational issue.  We're not getting the word out enough to the people about how dangerous it is to drive impaired,” Kwan said.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2012 more than 10,000 people nation-wide died in drunk driving crashes. That's one death every 51 minutes.

“The national average is about 32% of fatal crashes are alcohol related.  That's the national average. In the state of Ohio, it's higher,” Kwan said.

In fact, about 10% higher, he said, and Cleveland is no different, which is why officers are preparing for holiday's like St. Patrick's day a year in advance. 

Don't drive drunk that's the most obvious piece of advice.  But to those non-impaired motorists, there are signs of a drunk driver that can help save your life. Kwan says, be on the lookout for motorist driving without headlights on, swerving or weaving through traffic.

“Another sign of impairment would be someone stopped in the middle of traffic for no reason, or someone stopped at a green light. Speed is a factor and the majority of our OVI related crashes, so we want people to watch out for people who are speeding.”

It's about being a defensive driver. Even driving in the center lane can help.

“If you use the center lane, even though you're closer to on-coming traffic, you're going to avoid impaired drivers who are pulling off the curb or pulling out of parking lots. It gives you a little bit of reaction time.”

Kwan said if you spot a drunk driver, get out of that lane or try to pull over.  Do it safely but also, don't forget to get their tags so you can call it in. You may not only save your life but another's as well. 

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