on! Impaired drivers off the roads!
Wanda English Burnett, Editor
You dont know what its like until you lose a friend,
ISP Trooper Robert Garcia told students gathered at South Ripley
High School Wednesday afternoon at a press conference held by the
Indiana Criminal Justice Institute (ICJI) to kick off Lights
on For Life.
Garcia told the students how he literally saw his partner die as
a drunken driver hit his motorcycle when the two were on patrol
together when he lived in Phoenix, AZ. The 21-year law enforcement
veteran supported the campaign Lights on For Life, launched
by the Governors Council on Impaired & Dangerous Driving
and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. He encouraged
people to be aware, and do one of the most important things to save
a life, wear your seatbelts.
Friday, December 21 is the kick off day for Lights on For
Life. On that day, motorists are encouraged to turn their
lights on during the daylight hours to remember those who have been
killed and victims affected by impaired drivers.
Melanie Evans, sponsor of the 97 member SADD chapter at South Ripley
High School, noted that the students have been actively participating
in this campaign by making posters and signs. Miranda Cole, senior
representative for the SADD chapter spoke to the assembly, We
need everyones help. Impaired driving affects an entire community
when they decide to get behind the wheel. Not only do they put themselves
at risk, but also everyone else who may be on the road.
The SADD chapter at South Ripley joined with others to encourage
all drivers to drive with their headlights on throughout the day
on Friday. Residents are asked to turn their porch lights on, holiday
lights and floodlights to send the message that impaired driving
is a serious crime and will not be tolerated in Ripley County.
Officers in attendance at the conference were Sheriff Tom Grills,
Versailles Town Marshal Joe Mann, and Garcia, who all agreed they
will be out in force for the holiday season. Lt. Marty McKinney,
commander of the Indiana State Police Versailles District noted
that last year between December 22 and January 2, there were 27
people who lost their lives on Indiana roadways. Six of those deaths
were results of alcohol. Other statistics show that for the year
273 people were killed in Indiana in alcohol related traffic crashes.
More than 18,000 people were injured because of an impaired driver.
Lights on For Life will kick off the National Lifesavers
Weekend. During this time, law enforcement will have a crackdown
on impaired drivers through the use of sobriety checkpoints and
Paula Goodpaster, coordinator for Ripley County Local Coordinating
Council Against Substance Abuse gave some tips:
Dont even think about getting behind the wheel of your
vehicle if youve been out drinking.
If you are impaired, call a taxi or get a sober friend or
family member to come and get you.
And remember - Friends Dont Let Friends Drive Drunk.
Take the keys and never let a friend leave your sight if you think
they are about to drive while impaired.
Making the roadways safe is everyones responsibility. Making
everyone aware of how quickly a fun time can turn into a tragic
one, is something Ryan Klitzsch, traffic safety division director
at ICJI, wants to drive home. Not only is wearing your seat
belt the law, it can reduce your risk of injury by 50 percent. The
best defense to surviving a crash involving an impaired driver is
by wearing a seat belt, he told the students. Its
the single most preventative thing you can do. While you cant
stop someone from getting behind the wheel while theyre impaired,
you can have your seat belt on to hopefully reduce your injuries
should you be the victim.
Evans thanked Rachel Meyer, communications manager and Ryan Klitzsch,
for holding the press conference in Versailles. Both are from the
Indiana Criminal Justice Institute and Meyer is no stranger to the
area. She is a graduate of South Ripley and her father, Bob Meyer,
is currently the principal.
The most simplistic message from SADD students is this: Dont
drink and drive. Just dont do it.
WANDA ENGLISH BURNETT PHOTO
Miranda Cole, senior representative for South Ripley
SADD Chapter, addressed the assembly at the South Ripley
Cafeteria Wednesday afternoon as the "Lights on For
Life" campaign was launched by the Indiana Criminal
Justice Institute. Seated on the stage from left are: Sheriff
Tom Grills, ISP Robert Garcia, Versailles Marshal Joe Mann,
Ryan Klitzsch, traffic safety division director for the
Indiana Criminal Justice Instittue, and Melanie Evans, sponsor
of the SADD chapter at South Ripley.