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Take it from the Sheriffs: Tips for a safe summer

Sheriff John Whetsel is the Sheriff of Oklahoma County, Oklahoma and currently serves as Chair of the National Sheriffs’ Association Traffic Safety Committee. Formerly, he served as the Chief of Police for the Choctaw, OK Police Department and is a past President of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (1994-1995). Sheriff Whetsel is a nationally recognized traffic safety advocate who has authored many law enforcement articles and has been a guest on the Phil Donahue Show, Larry King Live, Dateline, NBC Nightly News, Hard Copy, Front Page, America’s Most Wanted and You Be The Judge.

Since sheriffs are generally elected by citizens to hold the highest office of law enforcement in any given county, it is a unique privilege to uphold the role to serve and protect those citizens. This is especially true during the summer months when more of our constituents are using our roadways to attend family gatherings, go on vacation, or take advantage of warm summer days outdoors. Given that, there are more risks for clashing with drivers who exhibit risky behaviors – especially alcohol-impaired driving.

Over Memorial Day weekend this year, the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office led a group of 10 law enforcement agencies to step up enforcement efforts to target impaired driving and those driving without seat belts. Operation Traffic Enforcement Across Metro (TEAM) utilized traditional and social media to alert the community of stepped up enforcement efforts, and the additional police officers positioned throughout the county were funded by a grant from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). According to the campaign’s preliminary results, Operation TEAM yielded 95 arrests, of those were 68 arrests for DUI. There were no fatalities in motor vehicle crashes during the campaign.

This effort is an example of the effectiveness of high visibility enforcement (HVE) campaigns. These campaigns utilize proven-effective strategies to increase the perception of risk of being caught for engaging in unsafe and illegal driving behaviors through stepped up enforcement efforts accompanied by aggressive advertising of those efforts. The goal behind HVE campaigns is to deter people from driving impaired. HVE campaigns show the community that law enforcement is on high alert for unsafe driving behavior. We are watching. We know what drunk drivers look like, act like and smell like. If you’re driving drunk, we are ready to take rapid action and get you off of our roadways.

NHTSA also assists law enforcement with other HVE campaigns during the summer with its 4th of July Drunk Driving Prevention Campaign and its annual Drunk Driving National Enforcement Crackdown with the Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over initiative starting August 15.

There are many options drivers can choose rather than risking their life and the lives of others on the roadway by driving impaired.

1.       Designate a driver who commits to staying sober. Or call a friend who is sober to come pick you up.

2.       Call a cab, or your community’s transportation alternative program like Safe Cab or SoberRide®.

3.       Know how alcohol affects your body – before you drink. The Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility has a useful blood alcohol educator tool, called B4Udrink, which can help you estimate your BAC level based on your age, weight, gender, type of food you’ve eaten and number of drinks you’ve consumed in a given period.

4.       Make a plan ahead of time, while you’re sober. Don’t leave how you’re getting home up to chance or wait until after you’ve been drinking to decide.

The Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility’s new Hardcore Drunk Driving Law Enforcement Guide is also a helpful tool to help law enforcement by providing proven-effective strategies and approaches for identifying hardcore offenders – offenders who drive with a BAC of .15 or above, or who drive impaired by alcohol repeatedly, and are highly resistant to behavior change despite previous sanctions.

Sheriff John Whetsel
Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office
Chair, Traffic Safety Committee
National Sheriffs’ Association

The National Sheriffs’ Association (NSA) is a professional association dedicated to serving the Office of Sheriff and its affiliates through police education, police training, and general law enforcement information resources. NSA represents thousands of sheriffs, deputies and other law enforcement, public safety professionals, and concerned citizens nationwide.

*The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility ( or any member.*


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