Health official: Impaired driving not a victimless crime and very dangerous

Sep 1 2010 - 11:08pm

BRIGHAM CITY -- In 2008, 2,330 alcohol-impaired driver crashes occurred in Utah, resulting in 1,596 injured people and 34 deaths.

Brigham City Safe Communities Coalition and the Northern Utah Hispanic Health Coalition have focused their efforts this summer on educating the public about driving impaired.

"We want the community to be aware that is a crime and not to drive impaired," said Monica Thunell, health promotion specialist for Bear River Health Department and Northern Utah Hispanic Health Coalition coordinator.

The Northern Utah Hispanic Health Coalition has joined with local law enforcement and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to conduct the "Drunk Driving, Over the Limit, Under Arrest" campaign that will continue over the Labor Day weekend.

According to the 2008 Utah Crash Summary, on average, 44 people die per year in Utah from alcohol-related crashes, and alcohol-impaired driver crashes are 3.5 times more likely to be fatal than other crashes.

"It is clear that too many people still don't understand that impaired driving is no accident, nor is it a victimless crime.

"We want the community to know it is a crime and not to drive impaired," Thunell said.

Thunell has spent the past two weeks in a community outreach education program.

Posters have been hung around the community, educating about impaired-driving crash prevention.

A poster contest was held within the local Hispanic community to design a sticker with text.

The winning sticker has been placed in gas stations next to alcoholic products.

Allena Pierce, health promotion specialist for Bear River Health and the Brigham City Safe Communities Coalition coordinator, has partnered with Brigham City to encourage employees to wear their seat belts.

"Wearing a seat belt is the best defense you have in a crash and increases your chance for survival."

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Tips to help prevent impaired driving tragedies

* If you are planning to drink alcohol with friends, designate a sober driver before going out.

* If you are impaired, don't drive; call someone to drive you home.

* Report any impaired drivers to law enforcement.

* Wear your seat belt every time you get in the car.

* If you know people who are impaired and are about to drive, take their keys and help them get safely home.

Source: Monica Thunell, health promotion specialist for Bear River Health Department and Northern Utah Hispanic Health Coalition coordinator

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