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Police escalate anti-DUI effort

Last year, Thanksgiving was the deadliest holiday weekend on Ohio roads, topping the list for traffic crashes and deaths, according to the Ohio State Highway Patrol.

Authorities are becoming increasingly aware of the deadly Thanksgiving trend and are taking steps to combat it, said Butler County Assistant Prosecutor Jason Phillabaum.

So on Wednesday, he argued that a Hamilton woman’s bond should be increased as she faced her fifth drunken-driving allegation.

After court, Phillabaum noted the irony that Judge Michael Sage ordered Debra Crawford to be locked up on Thanksgiving Eve – an occasion drawing more concern because of its popularity as a party night.

“I was surprised to learn that the day before Thanksgiving is one of the most dangerous and deadly DUI holidays of the year – and I think most people would be surprised,” Phillabaum said. “A lot of times, relatives come in town, kids come back from college, co-workers leave early to celebrate – and it can be a recipe for disaster.”

Crawford, 46, is accused of felony-level drunk-driving charges in an Oct. 11 incident. If she posts the $25,000 bond that Sage set, Crawford will be outfitted with a device that detects if the wearer drinks alcohol. Her trial is set for Jan. 11.

In many states, including Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky, police are ramping up efforts to snare drunk, impaired or aggressive drivers during the holiday weekend.

Sgt. Doug DeBord of the Ohio State Highway Patrol noted that, for many people, Thanksgiving Eve launches a four-day weekend, and it has become “a night that a lot of people like to go out because they do not have to go to work the next day.”

Combine that with another cause for concern: a higher number of drivers expected to be on the road.

AAA predicts that 39.7 million people will take road trips this Thanksgiving holiday, a 12 percent increase from 2009, the Kentucky State Police point out.

Kentucky police vowed to “cast a vast safety net designed to save lives” with increased patrols.

“Higher traffic volumes, combined with increased numbers of out-of-state visitors traveling to or through the state, have the potential to produce added risk for highway travel,” said Rodney Brewer, Kentucky police commissioner.

Besides ramping up patrols to catch impaired or aggressive drivers, police also renewed their pleas for people to ride only with a designated driver who is alcohol-free.

They also urge motorists to help them enforce laws by reporting impaired or aggressive drivers by calling 911 or state hot lines: in Ohio, 877-7-PATROL (877-772-8765); in Kentucky, 800-222-5555; in Indiana, 317-232-8248.

Last year in Ohio, during the Thanksgiving four-day holiday period, there were 2,998 crashes, 18 of which were fatal – and 10 of those involved an impaired driver, the state patrol said.

In Kentucky, there were 1,113 crashes, killing eight people and hurting 325 others.

In Indiana, there were two fatalities during the holiday weekend; neither of the victims was wearing a seat belt, police said.

Thanksgiving worst for crashes

Thanksgiving was the worst holiday in Ohio for crashes during 2009:

Source: Ohio State Highway Patrol

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