Archive for Wednesday, May 8, 2002

No excuses for drinking and driving’

May 8, 2002

Thousands of music fans flooded into the Sandstone Ampitheatre Tuesday night to catch the live acts of Green Day and Blink 182, kicking off the summer concert series.

Hoping to have a good time, some concert goers could choose to drink an alcoholic beverage. Inevitably, some of them will choose to drink and drive.

But with a new program unveiled during a press conference Monday, May 6, Sandstone officials and local law enforcement hope to deter concert goers from drinking and driving.

The new program, titled There's No Excuse for Drinking and Driving, is designed so that designated drivers can report to Sandstone officials and receive a bracelet, earning them two free soft drinks during the concert.

The program is a partnership between Sandstone, law enforcement agencies and the Kansas Department of Transportation.

Terry Maple of the Kansas Highway Patrol, said the new program is an example of agencies working together to prevent alcohol-related accidents.

"It demonstrates a commitment to remove drunk drivers from our highway," Maple said.

"There is no excuse for drinking and driving and if someone chooses to do that, there will be someone out there looking for them," he added.

In 2000, 7,305 people were involved in alcohol-related traffic accidents in Kansas. In those accidents, 2,469 people were injured, resulting in 78 fatalities.

"We can get those numbers down if we get folks that have been drinking off the highway," Maple said.

"There is no excuse for drinking and driving, there is no excuse for not having a designated driver," KDOT divisional director Terry Heidner said.

"It's an effort to raise alcohol abuse awareness and reduce deaths and injuries," he added.

Law enforcement officials said having a designated driver could have prevented an 18-year-old man from dying in a wreck following a concert at Sandstone last year.

On June 5, Jathan Stevenson was riding in the passenger seat of a red Camaro in the southbound lanes of Kansas Highway 7.

A Ford Explorer driven by Patrick Hobbs was speeding down the shoulder of the highway to avoid being stuck in concert traffic.

The Explorer veered back onto the highway and struck the Camaro. Stevenson died in a medical helicopter on the way to the hospital.

Empty alcohol containers were found in Hobb's vehicle and he was convicted last April in Wyandotte District Court of involuntary manslaughter.

During the press conference, Bonner Springs Police Chief John Haley thanked the agencies involved for initiating the program.

Just choosing to drink and drive one time is one time to many, he said.

"All it takes is one time to get in a bad accident and for one or more people to lose their lives," Haley said.

"If we can do anything, we need to do everything to prevent that from happening," he added.

The program is also receiving support from local organizations such as Mother's Against Drinking and Driving (MADD) and Students Against Drinking and Driving (SADD).

"The crime of drinking and driving is 100 percent preventable," said Dee Meyer of Kansas MADD. "If you have been drinking, do not choose to drive."

Basehor Police Chief Vince Weston said he also supports the program.

"I think it will (work) if people take the time to have a designated driver," Weston said.

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