Drunk Driving Awareness

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A Columbus police officer died this weekend when her cruiser was struck by a driver police believe was under the influence.

But it hasn't only happened in Columbus. Earlier this year, a Parkersburg police officer escaped serious injury, in a collision between his cruiser and a suspected drunk driver. Parkersburg police don't mainly patrol interstate highways, as the Columbus officer did last weekend, but their routes do include four-lane roadways.

"And Sergeant Scott Elliott has just taken over a new assignment as a directed patrol unit," says Parkersburg Police Chief Bob Newell. "Part of his duties will be to look at places where we've had high incidents of drunk driving and other issues, and concentrate on these during the holiday."

December is national Drunk and Drugged Driving Awareness Month, and it's not coincidental that it comes during the holiday party season.

"If they are going to celebrate," says the Ohio Highway Patrol's Lt. Mary Pfeifer, "please make sure you have a designated driver or make arrangements so you can get to your destination safely."

During the past 25 years, the incidents of drunk driving have decreased steadily, thanks to public awareness. But stories like last weekend's accident in Columbus and a suspected drunk driving incident in Washington County, prove it hasn't completely disappeared.

"All of the streets are susceptible to drunk drivers at this time of year," says Chief Newell, "because parties are going on in homes and at night clubs."

Chief Newell adds Seventh Street is normally where the most drunk driving cases are found.

The man police say was behind the wheel in the Columbus accident is expected to be charged with aggravated vehicular homicide, and police say he could face other charges.