01/21/18 — Don't drink or drug, then drive

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Don't drink or drug, then drive

By Steve Herring
Published in News on January 21, 2018 3:05 AM

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Sgt. Jayson Hill of the Wayne County Sheriff's Office DWI Task Force updates Wayne County commissioners on the program during their Tuesday morning meeting.

Deputies have a message for anyone who will listen to them, said Sgt. Jayson Hill of the Wayne County Sheriff's Office DWI Task Force.

"If you drink, use a drug, whether it is prescription, illicit, over the counter that has some kind of side effect, like Benadryl for instance or Tylenol PM, if you use any of that whether it is recreational or because you are hurting, don't drive," he said. "It is just that simple. Don't drive.

"There are too many options in the world we live in today where you would not have to get behind the wheel. There's Uber. There's taxis. There's GATEWAY. Phone a friend. There are just too many options. That is my message to anybody who will listen."

Hill appeared before Wayne County commissioners Tuesday morning to update them on the task force.

In 2015 the county applied for and received a grant to form a DWI task force --  a traffic unit that specifically focuses on DWI enforcement as well as education.

Since Oct. 1, 2015, when the project actually began, the four-member task force has made 625 DWI charges.

"Last year the 2016-17 grant year, because it runs on the federal fiscal year, we had 313 DWI charges," Hill said. "Now to compare that across the state, like I said we are a four-man team, and we are one of the smallest teams in the state.

"There are 12 teams across the state that are federally funded through the Governor's Highway Safety Program. Just to give you a comparison ---- and I like to use Wake County ---- Wake County has a six-member team. For the same year they charged 189 DWIs. We were at 313."

That provides a sense of how hard task force members are working -- they are out every night, just about, looking for DWIs, Hill said.

"We work mostly nights and weekends," he said. "Generally what our schedule is is Wednesday through Saturday or Wednesday through Friday."

It is five-year grant whose funding level is reduced each year, he said. The program is in its third year and the grant funding level is 75 percent, Hill said.

Hill said he is writing the grant continuation for the upcoming year and would probably be coming back to the board  in the next couple of months with a resolution and everything that has to be done for the new grant.

"You would think that sooner or later the general public would learn not to drink and drive," Chairman Bill Pate said.

The county's numbers are getting better, Hill said.

Wayne County was ranked 13 in the state in the number of alcohol-related fatalities when the DWI task force started, Hill said.

"After the first year of our grant, it went to No. 21," he said. "We are now at No. 24, so we are improving."

While that area has improved, others, such as fatalities involving unrestrained drivers, have gotten worse, he said.

Fatalities and injuries involving young drivers have gotten better, but not nearly enough, Hill said.

"So there is a lot of work to be done as far as traffic safety goes," he said.

Pate asked if task force got many repeat offenders.

"Yes, sir, we do," Hill said. "It is the older generation. When I say older, that is kind of my generation, probably 40 to 60. That's who the repeat offenders are. The younger, 21 to 30, they've grown up with Booze It and Lose It, don't drink and drive. They have grown up seeing that on TV, on billboards.

"So if they do make that mistake, you don't see it too much as a repeat. I am not going to say it doesn't happen. It does. But most of the repeat offenders are the older generation."

Commissioner Ed Cromartie asked if it is possible the younger generation is using something not as easily detectable as alcohol.

To some extent that is true, Hill said.

"We have deputies, task force officers, who are specifically trained on drug impairment," he said. "They know what to look for, and there are specific tests and evaluations that we do to look for the signs and symptoms of drug impairment."

Those can be different than the ones for alcohol impairment, he said.

"But I will say that a majority of the drug-impaired drivers that we do find are the younger generation," Hill said.

There also is an older generation of 30- to 40-year-olds that are drug-impaired drivers because of the epidemic with heroin and narcotics, he said.