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Alcohol-related fatalities on the rise

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The use of drugs and alcohol has increased in young adults along with the number of people driving under the influence. In 2008, Texas Department of Public Safety reported 1,463 alcohol-related fatalities, and the number increased during 2009.

“Young adults tend to drink and drive, throwing their life away if something really bad happens,” said Don Martin, the public information officer of Tyler Police Department.

According to a report from Mothers Against Drunk Driving, on March 5, 2006, a Nissan Sentra crashed against a pipe fence on one of Lindale’s farm roads. The passenger, Kyle Ray Jackson, was ejected from the vehicle and died a day later as result of his injuries. Jackson was an honor student and an outstanding athlete at Southwestern College in Winfield. The driver, Skyler Prince, was driving while intoxicated; the level of alcohol in his blood was .191 higher than the law permits. Prince was 20 years old at the time of the accident and because drugs were found in his possession, he received numerous charges. On April 13, 2007, he was sentenced to four years in prison.

The National Crime Prevention Council Web Site shows that on an average weekend evening one of every 10 drivers is legally impaired or drunk.

“People who use alcohol or drugs like marijuana have really poor judgment while driving,” said Mike Tobin, instructor in Vocational Nurse Education.

“This condition slows their reaction time, vision is distorted and causes bad judgment. There is no difference when driving is combined with marijuana, cocaine or alcohol; the damage is the same in the body and their capacity to drive is minimal.”

According to MADD reports, on Aug. 18, 2004, Lauren Mackenzie Frazier was on her way back home after eating ice cream with her parents when she was killed in a devastating car accident. A 16-year-old drunk driver crashed into Frazier’s vehicle. Frazier was starting school at Baylor University the next day. Frazier’s mother and father were seriously injured. The drunk driver pled guilty and was sentenced to nine years in prison. In addition, four other teens were convicted for providing alcohol to a minor and received two years of community service.

According to MADD, the state of Texas is the number one state with alcohol- and drug-related fatalities in the United States. “Tyler Police Department is fighting drivers under the influence along with other federal and state agencies with positive results,” said Martin.

On Jan. 20, 2010, Tyler Police assisted Tyler Junior College Campus Safety with the K-9 unit. At 9 a.m., they conducted a drug and alcohol search in several dorms.

On Nov. 10, 2009, Tyler Police Department arrested a TJC student in a parking lot. The student was found with two ounces of marijuana. Because the individual was a student and a resident, Tyler Police let Campus Safety know about the situation.

“On specific weekends, Tyler Police Department has what is called ‘no refusal’ weekend; which means that if I pull you over and I need a sample of your breath or blood to see the level of alcohol in your body, by law, you cannot refuse,” said Martin.

According to DWIBlues.com, the penalties for first DWI (driving under the influence) offenses could be up to a $2,000 fine, 72 hours to six months in jail, loss of driver’s license for up to one year and $1,000 -$2,000 annual fee for three consecutive years to retain the driver’s license.

On Dec. 5, 2009, Campus Safety received a report from a student that a subject in an automobile was drinking while driving. Officers found three individuals in a parked car at the west end of S-2 lot. A student was in the driver’s seat with bottles of beer between his legs. Bottles of beer were taken as proof. The three individuals were students at Tyler Junior College at the time and under 20 years old.

“As a community, it is our responsibility to prevent people who are drinking, using prescription drugs or illegal drugs from setting behind the wheel,” said Yolanda Vaughn, program specialist at MADD.

“The community as a whole is affected, not only the people involved. Also, these situations affect sons, parents, brothers, family, friend etc,” said Vaughn.

According to alcoholalert.com, the total numbers of deaths this year so far as result of drunk driving have reached 788 fatalities in the United States alone.

In 2008, Tyler Police Department arrested 534 people for drinking and driving. This number increased during 2009 with 588 people arrested only within the city limits of Tyler.

“People including young adults have the tendency to let alcohol, drugs and illegal substances influence their choices. Getting behind the wheel under these circumstances could result in jail time, injuring or even killing someone,” said Vaughn.

According to madd.com, one of every three east Texans will will be affected in some way by a crash involving alcohol or drugs.According to the National Crime Prevention Council Web-site, the estimated yearly economic cost of alcohol-related car crashes is $45 billion.

For victims of drunk driving, education and activism, contact Mothers Against Drunk Driving at (903) 534-6000.

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