CLEVELAND — Ahead of the New Year’s holiday this weekend, Northeast Ohio area law enforcement, including the Ohio State Highway Patrol, are urging and encouraging revelers to have a designated driver or a sober ride home.
After two years of muted celebrations because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the upcoming New Year’s holiday marks a return to relative normalcy. As they are every year, Ohio troopers will be out in full force, cracking down on drunk and impaired drivers, said OSHP Sgt. Bridget Matt.
“There is no excuse [to drive impaired],” Matt said. “In today’s age, we have so many options and resources available, from ride-sharing like Uber and Lyft, and even the old fashioned phone call home — phone a friend. There is no reason people should be getting behind the wheel and drinking and driving.”
Although impaired driving-related deaths around the New Year’s holiday have steadily declined nationwide over the past two decades — and in Ohio as well — the preventable and completely avoidable deaths continue to happen.
“New Year’s Eve is a time to celebrate and be with family and friends. It’s a joyous moment — or at least it should be — a celebratory moment,” Matt said. “We’d hate to see it end in tragedy and end in something that could be avoided.”
Troopers reported 10 total deaths during 2021-2022 New Year’s holiday period. Three of those deaths were OVI-related. During the 2020-2021 New Year’s holiday period, troopers reported 14 total deaths.
During the 2021-2022 New Year’s holiday period, Cuyahoga County was especially crash-prone.
“We enjoy being number one in lots of things. However, crashes is not one of them,” Matt said. “Last year, over the New Year’s Eve holiday — so that’s New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day — Cuyahoga County had the most crashes across the state of Ohio.”
In Cuyahoga County alone last New Year’s holiday, there were more than 40 OVI-related crashes, resulting in one fatality. There were a total of 45 OVI-related arrests.
More broadly, over the course of the entire year, there have been more than 1,800 impaired driving-related traffic deaths since 2019.
There were 652 OVI-related traffic deaths in 2021, including 60 in Cuyahoga County. There were 637 OVI-related fatalities in 2020 and 527 fatalities in 2019.
“Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over has been a hugely successful campaign but there is still work to be done,” said Matt. “Any time we have impaired drivers and OVI-related crashes or fatalities, there is still more work to be done.”
Anyone wanting to report an unsafe or impaired driver out on the roadway is encouraged to call #677.