Saturday, January 3, 2004

Season's drunk-driving arrests up



By Janice Morse
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Arrests statewide by the Ohio State Highway Patrol for driving under the influence this New Year's holiday outpaced last year's, preliminary figures from police agencies show.

Locally, arrest numbers held steady.

Statewide from Dec. 30 through Jan. 1, the Ohio State Highway Patrol reported 266 arrests for OVI - Operating a Vehicle under the Influence. For those arrested Jan. 1, a new state law calls for even first-time offenders to display red and orange "restricted" license plates until their normal driving privileges are restored.

For the same period in the previous year, there were 170 such arrests, the patrol said.

During the holiday enforcement period, from Tuesday through Thursday, six people were killed in traffic crashes statewide; alcohol was confirmed in use in only one of those crashes. In four of the fatal crashes, safety belts were available but unused, the patrol said.

The figures were released Friday as the Butler County DUI (Driving Under the Influence) Task Force was preparing to conduct a sobriety checkpoint, part of its crackdown on impaired drivers. The checkpoint was to have run from 9:30 p.m. Friday to 1:30 a.m. today at Ohio 747 just south of Muhlhauser Road, West Chester Township.

Meanwhile, the patrol's posts in Hamilton and Lebanon reported no significant increase in arrests during the holiday period.

Troopers from the Hamilton post snared eight OVI arrests in two days - New Year's Eve and New Year's Day - matching last year's tally. The Lebanon post recorded one arrest for a three-day period that began Tuesday.

David Eck contributed to this story. E-mail jmorse@enquirer.com




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