SHERIDAN — Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead announced Monday that the Governor’s Council on Impaired Driving has launched a statewide campaign to reduce fatalities and injuries related to drunken driving in the state.
According to Sheridan Police Chief Rich Adriaens, who is co-chair of the Governor’s Council on Impaired Driving, Wyoming has made progress on DUI fatalities since the council was formed in 2011, but there is room for improvement.
“The Cowboy State’s DUI fatalities are still significantly higher than the national average, when adjusted for population,” Adriaens said.
Statewide in 2012, Wyoming had 954 alcohol-related crashes, of which 391 resulted in injuries and 41 in death, according to a press release about the campaign.
The city of Sheridan had a total of 19 alcohol-related crashes in 2012. Of those, five caused personal injury and 14 resulted in property damage, Adriaens said. Approximately 15 percent of crashes that caused personal injury were related to alcohol.
There were no alcohol-related crashes that resulted in fatalities in 2012 for Sheridan. Statistics for Sheridan County as a whole will not be available until June, Adriaens said.
“I think what we’re learning as everyone gets more education is that it’s not just being drunk that’s the problem,” Adriaens said. “Impairment starts far before we feel we’re drunk. The campaign is bringing awareness to that.”
The anti-impaired driving campaign will run throughout the state in a variety of media including billboards, radio spots and posters in bar and restaurant restrooms. It features mug shots of people who have been arrested for DUI — many bruised and injured from their alcohol-related crash — with slogans related to the shame of getting a DUI written on the name card they are holding.
The campaign will run through February. As one of the seven highest risk counties for drunken driving in the state, Sheridan will feature some of the 33 billboards created for the campaign.
“The new multimedia campaign is hard-hitting and specific to Wyoming,” Mead said. “It will address the devastating emotional losses caused by drunk driving. The takeaway message will be clear: Don’t drive drunk.”
The campaign stresses the individual, life-changing consequences of getting a DUI.
Adriaens said when he first became an officer, the permitted blood alcohol level in Wyoming was .15, nearly double what it is now at .08. He said the anti-impaired driving campaign comes on the heels of a recent recommendation by the National Transportation Safety Board that states adopt an even lower blood alcohol threshold of .05 for DUI arrests.
“The U.S. has some of the most lenient levels of acceptance compared to the rest of the world. We’re probably headed that way as a nation as we learn there’s really no reason to tolerate this,” Adriaens said.
Adriaens supports a lower blood alcohol level and has also been advocating for a primary seatbelt law since 50 to 60 percent of highway fatalities statewide — and 100 percent in Sheridan County — are related to not wearing a seatbelt.
“These are just too dramatic of statistics to ignore,” Adriaens said. “We’re smart folks; we know that wearing your seatbelt makes a difference. And it will be the same way with DUI. We’ll come around and understand that, yes, we can have a good time, we can enjoy ourselves, but that shouldn’t include getting behind the wheel of a car.”
The Governor’s Council on Impaired Driving was created by executive order on Sept. 16, 2011, to work on ways to make Wyoming’s highways safer through educational programs, proposed legislative changes and partnering with law enforcement for increased focused patrols.
For more information and copies of Wyoming’s new media campaign, visit www.wygcid.org.