Health Department Fights DUIs

The Barnes County Health Department’s Healthy Communities Coalition recently received $65,000 from the North Dakota Department of Transportation (NDDOT) to develop a volunteer citizen DUI reporting program.

“You’ve heard of Neighborhood Watch? Well, this would be like Neighbor Road watch,” said Kasey Skalicky, Barnes County Health Department Traffic Safety Coordinator.

She hopes the program will stop a lot of crashes and deaths.
According to NDDOT, alcohol slows down reactions, impairs vision, interferes with concentration, dulls judgment and creates a false sense of confidence.

Last year in North Dakota law enforcement made 6,486 impaired driving arrests. This year, impaired driving accounts for 52 percent of the state’s traffic fatalities, and even more injuries. According to NDDOT: Nationally, on an average, one person is injured approximately every two minutes in alcohol related crashes; impaired driving is one of the most often committed crimes, killing someone every 30 minutes on average; on average, every weeknight between 10 p.m. and 1 a.m., one in 13 drivers is drunk; between 1 a.m. and 6 a.m., one in every seven drivers is drunk; and alcohol intoxication is involved in: 40-50 percent of traffic fatalities and 25-30 percent of non-fatal motor vehicle injuries.

“It’s 100 percent preventable,” said Skalicky.

Skalicky’s plan it to develop a program that teaches private citizens to recognize and report impaired drivers in the southeast portion of the state.
The plan, which is still in the planning process, involves pairing community volunteers with law enforcement who will provide volunteers with training. In addition, a media campaign will educate drivers and make them aware that someone besides law enforcement is looking for impaired drivers. Skalicky hopes the program will act as a deterrent. She hopes to have the first event by July, 2013.

The program will encourage the volunteers
“We are not going out and chasing people in their vehicles!” said Skalicky.

“These are our roads too,” Skalicky said.

The Barnes County Health Department got its first NDDOT grant in 2004 to develop a Safe Communities Program to address traffic injuries in Barnes County, according to Skalicky. By 2008, the program reach 13 counties in southeast North Dakota. Working closely with law enforcement, the program offers a variety of services and activities to reduce motor vehicle accidents.

Some programs include the North Dakota Teen Drivers Campaign, the Young Individual Establishing Logical Driving Decisions (YIELDD) program, the Juvenile Court Impact Class which provides juvenile traffic offenders with training, child passenger safety projects (car seat checks) and high school awareness programs along with others, according to Skalicky.