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Stepped up drunk driving patrols honor victims

Muskegon woman urges drivers to “think before they drink”

It has been nearly 12 years since Dianna Ockaski’s life was changed after a crash with a drunk driver. The Muskegon woman was on her way to work in the early morning when a drunk driver, traveling about 55 mph, broadsided her vehicle and trapped her inside.

It took firefighters 45 minutes to free her from the vehicle, and when they did, she was taken into emergency surgery to remove a large piece of glass from her eye and reconstruct the eye and socket. She received more than 110 stitches in her face and suffered soft tissue damage to her ribs and severe bruising over most of her body.

Although the crash occurred over a decade ago, she still struggles daily with eye issues, including infection and discomfort. “I would never want anyone to go through what I’ve been through,”Ockaski said. “I want people to think before they drink and get in the car. This is avoidable.”

Ockaski and five other victims and their families across the state are being recognized and remembered as officers in West Michigan and across the state step up drunk driving patrols leading up to Labor Day. They started the patrols last Friday, August 21.

“More people are injured and killed in drunk driving crashes in August than in any other month,” Office of Highway Safety Planning Director Michael L. Prince said. “Everyone should be aware of the extra patrols and remember to plan ahead and never drive drunk.”

OHSP is coordinating the Drunk Driving. Over the Limit. Under Arrest. crackdown by administering federal traffic safety funds to more than 300 agencies in 54 counties, including Kent, Montcalm, Newaygo, Muskegon and others. The Cedar Springs Police Department will be one of the agencies taking part in the crackdown, which runs Aug. 21 through September 7. According to Chief Roger Parent, they will have at least one extra patrol out for the program. “We’ll look for legal reasons to stop vehicles, and will look for alcohol-impaired drivers. We’ll also encourage seat-belt use,” he noted.

About 35 percent of all traffic fatalities in Michigan involve alcohol and/or drugs, including four during last year’s Labor Day weekend.

A first-time drunk driving conviction carries heavy penalties, including up to 93 days in jail, up to a $500 fine, up to 360 hours of community service, six points on a driver’s license, and up to 180 days license suspension.

Convicted drunk drivers will be subject to a $1,000 fee for two consecutive years, for a total of $2,000 in additional costs. Anyone who refuses a breath test the first time is given an automatic one-year driver’s license suspension.

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