Last weekend, students helped the Mineral County DUI Task Force spread the word about the dangers of drinking and driving. The task force had reached out to local schools to see if they had students willing to do community outreach. Students from all three schools — St. Regis, Superior and Alberton — stepped up to help said Barb Jasper with the county health department.
The task force had purchased yellow stickers which read, “Arrive Alive! Don’t Drink & Drive.” They put them on drink cups, bags and to-go containers in local businesses — including the St. Regis Travel Center, Mineral Pharmacy, Castles IGA, Clark Fork Espresso and Valley Grocery.
“A huge shout-out to these incredible students! They spent time on their Saturday morning volunteering for the Mineral County DUI Task Force to help spread their message and promote safety on our Montana roads! Very proud!” posted school counselor Tyler Cheesman on the St. Regis Fan Club Facebook page.
The stickers are an effort to get the words out in Mineral County about drinking and driving, which has very limited media opportunities.
The Mineral County DUI Task Force is made up of a multidisciplinary team, headed by Ernie Ornelas. The goals are to prevent drinking and driving; reduce alcohol-related traffic crashes; and educate the public about the dangers of driving after consuming alcoholic beverages or other chemical substances that impair judgment or motor functions.
“This project really hit home with me,“ said Cheesman. “When I was in elementary school my brother-in-law, Morgan Perkins, was involved in an accident due to drinking and driving and died from complications from the accident after fighting hard for his life five months later. He was an incredible person who made a life-changing mistake that left behind my 13-month-old nephew and my 20-year-old sister. He is the reason why I have made better choices as an adult and one of the biggest reasons why I joined the ambulance service.”
SEVERAL STUDENTS from all three schools participated, including Emma Hill, Kylee Thompson, Baylee Pruitt and Bella Cheesman from St. Regis; Kathryn and Margaret Parkin, Jonna Warnken and Madison Mask from Superior; and students from Alberton.
So far this year, eight people have lost their lives in Montana due to impaired driving, according to the Montana Department of Transportation.
In Montana, drivers can get a driving under the influence or DUI if alcohol or drugs with a blood alcohol concentration is .08 percent, or more or .02 percent if the driver is under 21. Drivers who get a DUI face penalties from both court and the Montana Motor Vehicle Department (DMV). For a first offense they face jail time of 24 hours to up to six months, plus they may be fined $600 to $1,000. For a second offense, they may get 14 days to one year in jail and pay of a fine of $1,200 to $2,000. A third offense is 60 days to a year in jail, plus a fine of $5,000 to $10,000 according to the DMV.
In Montana, deaths caused by alcohol-impaired drivers is about twice that of the national average per 100 million miles driven over the past five years. The state also led the nation for the highest percentage of fatal vehicle crashes caused by drunk drivers in 2012, 2014 and 2016. An average of 1,000 Montanans are killed or injured each year in wrecks involving impaired drivers.