CLEVELAND — Levi Garrison of North Canton is not happy with the latest impaired driving statistics recently released by the Ohio State Highway Patrol indicating nearly 40,000 OVI crashes have taken place statewide since 2019.
Garrison lost his brother Michael Garrison, 22, in an October 2017 drunk driving accident. Michael was a passenger in a car driven by his friend who was drunk. The driver crashed on I-77 South in Canton and survived. Michael died at a hospital.
Garrison said it was disheartening to hear that 54% of fatal vehicle crashes over the past few years have an impaired driving connection, and he's urging all drivers to use restraint and not get behind the wheel while intoxicated.
“Drivers shouldn't say oh I’m fine, I can make it home, the tough guy attitude, it’s not worth your life or someone else’s life," Garrison said. “With friends, family, Uber, just so many ways to get home, there’s no reason you should be behind the wheel drinking and driving.”
Sgt. Ray Santiago with the Ohio State Highway Patrol Public Affairs Unit told News 5, while overall fatal crashes are down in Ohio so far in 2022 compared to last year, impaired driving is still a big issue.
OSHP reports indicate from 2019-2021, 39,951 OVI-related crashes have occurred on Ohio roadways. These crashes have resulted in 2,002 deaths (about 54% of all motor vehicle deaths) and 24,359 injuries (about 8% of all motor vehicle injuries) during this time period.
From 2019-2021, OSHP troopers issued 57,650 OVI citations, an average of more than 19,200 per year. Male drivers received nearly three out of every four citations (73%). Over half (52%) of OVI citations were issued between 5:00 p.m. Friday and 5:00 a.m. Sunday.
“It’s not relevant until it truly hits home, or tragedy has unfortunately struck and that’s what we’re trying to avoid," Santiago said. "‘Since 2019 there have been nearly 40.000 OVI-related crashes. That’s a lot of crashes that are relayed to one singular poor decision."
"Everyone accuses troopers of chasing numbers, and you know folks are right; we’re trying to chase zero. Until we can get traffic fatalities down to zero, then we’re always going to have work to do. We have a lot of things that we want to do this fall, watching sporting events, gathering with family, the holiday season, let’s just make sure we’re doing it safely so we can enjoy it with each other.”
Santiago told News 5 that motorists can report impaired driving by carefully dialing #677, as one woman was recording on video as doing on the OSHP OVI dashboard.
Meanwhile, Garrison hopes no other family will have to dealing with the pain his family has had to endure in losing a family member to impaired driving.
“Two boys and another boy on the way that will never get the chance to meet their Uncle because of one bad decision," Garrison said. "He was my best friend so I just really miss him, if need help with something or being able to work with him.” (7 sec)
“If you can afford to go drinking all day, you can afford to catch a ride home. It’s not worth risking someone else’s family for your night of fun.”