|Van Wert leads Tri-County in OVI-related incidents|
|Wednesday, March 12, 2014 8:00 PM|
BY STEPHANIE GROVES
The Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP) reports a decrease in Operating a Vehicle Impaired (OVI) enforcements in Allen and Putnam counties in 2013; conversely, Van Wert County has experienced an increase in OVI arrests.
Since the beginning of 2014, there have been 73 OVI enforcements in Allen, zero in Putnam and 19 in Van Wert County. Within the same time frame last year, there were 84 arrests in Allen, seven in Putnam and 13 in Van Wert. Current statistics reflect a 46 percent increase in Van Wert arrests.
In 2013, there was a decrease in the number of OVI-related injury crashes in Allen County, which had 44 — a decrease of eight from 52 — and Putnam County, which tallied seven — a decrease of nine from 16. In contrast, Van Wert County reported 12 OVI-related injury crashes in 2013; a 50 percent increase over the prior year’s six.
The overall number of OVI-related fatal crashes in 2013 decreased with a total of four; one in Allen, zero in Putnam and three in Van Wert. In 2012, there were a total of seven, with three in Allen, one in Putnam and three in Van Wert.
Delphos Police Chief Kyle Fittro said fatal crashes within the city limits — whether OVI-related or not — are rare. He said speeds in town are not conducive to fatal crashes.
Fittro reported that there were 13 OVI arrests in Delphos in 2013. Of those arrests, nine were men and four were women; seven fell in the 18-30-year-old range and six were 31-60 years old; and the majority were picked up between 5 p.m.- 3:30 a.m.
In 2012, there were 16 OVI arrests and of those, 13 were men and three were women; 12 were between the ages of 18-30 and four were aged 31-60; and 75 percent of the arrests were made between 6 p.m.-2:30 a.m., with the remainder being picked up 2-3 p.m.
“The level of impairment is determined by the officer by Field Sobriety Test and observation,” Fittro stated. “There are a lot of indicators.”
For example, if a driver is pulled over and hands the officer a credit card rather than a driver’s license and is then given another chance to give the officer the license but hands over a fuel savings card, that’s an indicator. As well, there is the slurring of words, bloodshot eyes and the smell of alcohol. The officer has to make the decision if the driver is that impaired.
Fittro said there are cases where someone who has not had a drink in a long time — has a low tolerance — has a beer and is all over the road.
“They could test under .08 g/dl limit and still be charged with an OVI,” Fittro detailed.
He said the big thing with OVI is a person can be operating a motor vehicle anywhere in the state, whether on public or private property, and be charged with the crime. For example, if someone is drunk mowing their lawn on a riding mower, they can be arrested.
“It’s not that an officer will stop, say hello, ask you if you’ve been drinking and then arrest you,” Fittro said. “It’s more about the guy who drives his mower to Chief to get a package of hot dogs.”
He said the only time he let someone go was when the individual tested all zeros.
“The driver had beer cans in the vehicle and couldn’t stand up,” Fittro said. “The driver had some weird medical condition that made him seem drunk.”
Drivers under 21 may not drive after consuming any alcohol because of the Zero Tolerance Laws, which have been adopted in all states. The concept for the Zero Tolerance Law is that since it is illegal for people under the age of 21 to drink alcoholic beverages, it should also be illegal for them to operate a motor vehicle with any alcohol in their system.
Fittro said the legal BAC limit is .02 g/dL for a driver under the age of 21.
“A driver can be 19 years old driving after consuming one beer and be at a .01 g/dL when tested,” he explained. “They may not be over the limit but they will be arrested for underage consumption.”
Zerotolerance.com reports in states that have enacted the law, nighttime fatal crashes involving underage drivers decreased by 16 percent. In comparison to states that did not have Zero Tolerance laws, fatal crashes involving underage drivers went up by 1 percent.
On a national level, of the fatal crashes in 2011, the highest percentage of drunk drivers was for drivers ages 21 to 24 (32 percent), followed by ages 25 to 34 (30 percent) and 35 to 44 (24 percent).