Ephrata police posted a striking photo of a car upside down sitting on its roof Friday. They believe the driver was drunk.
It was a predictable start to the Labor Day weekend and a yet another reminder for the rest of Pennsylvania about the dangers of impaired driving.
A further reminder: arrest and crash numbers released by Pennsylvania State Police.
In 2016, PSP arrested 19,518 for DUI, a 3.8 percent increase over 2015. Additionally, PSP investigated 4,520 DUI-related crashes in 2016.
“One DUI is one too many,” Cpl. Adam Reed said. “When we’re looking at possibly record-setting numbers, that’s a lot, so we as law enforcement are concerned.”
Even more sobering is a simple question: for every person arrested, how many more are on the roads eluding police?
“It’s a significant amount,” said Dave Andrascik, a former trooper who now trains law enforcement to spot DUI offenders, “We know that there’s a certain percentage of impaired drivers that are always on the highways, whether it’s alcohol impaired or drug impaired.”
Not everyone hitting the road is hitting the bottle. Drugs now account for a full half of all DUI arrests. Even with the recent ignition interlock law, Pennsylvania is considered one of the most lenient states on impaired violators.
Family members holding photos of lost loved ones rally every year at the Capitol for stiffer penalties. In the commonwealth, a driver could have 10 DUI’s and zero felonies.
“There are laws in other countries that are much more strict than ours and they prevent crimes. Here, it’s more socially acceptable,” Andrascik said.
That’s an odd comment and a sad social commentary: “socially acceptable.”
To be impaired and get behind the wheel of a lethal weapon is socially acceptable?
“I’ve been involved in investigating cases where people have lost their lives and people have faced years and years in jail because of one simple mistake they made,” Reed said. “It’s simply not worth it.”
Experts say to plan ahead before becoming intoxicated; pre-arrange a designated driver or plan to call a taxi or ride-hailing service.