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HAZARD, Ky. (WYMT) – Officials from the Kentucky Office of Highway Safety (KOHS), part of the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC), are working along the same lines as the Kentucky State Troopers this Super Bowl weekend – urging safe driving.

“Drunk driving accidents are 100% preventable,” said KYTC Secretary Jim Gray. “Drivers need to understand that drugs and/or alcohol not only impair your ability to drive, but also affect your judgment as to whether you can or should drive. You may think everything is fine, but impairment slows judgment, coordination, and reaction times.

KSP Trooper Matt Gayheart says he sees an increase in drunk drivers every year during the big game, and it all starts with a bad decision.

“Well, we often see whoever gets the least drunk,” he said of friend groups. “It’s not the right way to do it. A real sober driver is what he is – he’s completely sober, and, uh, that’s what we want him to do.

According to KYTC, preliminary numbers indicate that 120 people in Kentucky were killed in crashes involving a drunk driver in 2021.

“It’s not just numbers,” Secretary Gray said. “These are people – mothers, daughters, sons, fathers – who have never returned home to be reunited with their loved ones because someone chose to drive drunk. Any number greater than zero is unacceptable.

“That’s 120 preventable deaths,” added HB Elkins, public information officer for the Kentucky Department of Highways, which covers District 10. “If someone hadn’t chosen to get behind the wheel in a state of drunk, it wouldn’t have happened.”

KOHS safety managers team up with the National Highway Safety Administration for a reminder “Fans Don’t Let Fans Drive Drunk” urging football fans to drive while impaired and avoid a major fumble.

“We just want to make sure people don’t have too much fun, and enjoy Super Bowl nights a little too much, and then drive home,” Elkins said.

Private Gayheart said he and his fellow KSP Troopers already saw too much tragedy and hoped people would drive on safely.

“We see a lot of dead [accidents] involving drunk drivers,” Gayheart said. “And that’s something we want to do our best to try to deter and I wouldn’t want to work with any of them.”

To prevent impaired driving collisions, KOHS officials recommend the following:

  • Before the start of the festivities, plan a way to get home at the end of the evening safely;
  • If you are impaired, use a ride-sharing company, a taxi, call a sober friend or family member, or use public transportation;
  • If you see an impaired driver, pull over safely and contact law enforcement. You can dial the KSP toll-free line directly at 1-800-222-5555 or call 911;
  • If you know of people who are about to drive or travel impaired, take their keys and help them make other arrangements to get to their destination safely. and
  • Wear a seat belt! It’s not just the law, it’s the best defense against an impaired driver. Fastening your seat belt helps prevent injury and death in the event of an accident.

“Any time a loss of life occurs, it’s tragic,” Cavalier Gayheart said. It’s not something we want [do]meeting with a family member [and] let them know that their loved one didn’t come home because they made an irresponsible decision.

Driving under the influence is severely punished throughout the Commonwealth.

First offenses involve heavy fines, court costs and possibly jail time if no one is hurt.

When people are hurt or worse, or it’s a second or third offence, jail time is almost certain.

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