“A drunk driver killed someone I love,” reads a sign on the Interstate 80 East exit ramp onto Route 611 in Stroud Township, Pa.
It’s the same area where Raymond Gelormini Jr., 49, of Hackettstown, N.J., was killed in March. Lester Tucker, 50, of East Stroudsburg, is awaiting trial on charges of vehicular homicide and driving under the influence in Gelormini’s death.
As the Labor Day weekend approaches, those at DUI Services of Monroe County want to ensure that no other loved ones are killed as a result of drunken driving.
“Labor Day, like any other three-day holiday weekend, generates a heightened concern about DUI,” said Tony Arciprete, a coordinator at DUI Services on Main Street in Stroudsburg. “This weekend, people are saying goodbye to summer. Many are drinking and, unfortunately, there are those who will be driving after having too many drinks. We just want everyone to be safe.”
Police want the same thing.
Pennsylvania’s state and local police and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation will take part in the national “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” enforcement effort through Labor Day, targeting motorists driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Last year’s Labor Day weekend statewide saw 111 alcohol-related crashes, 22 drug-related crashes and three DUI-related fatalities, according to state police and PennDOT. Pennsylvania police and DUI task forces will conduct checkpoints and roving patrols as part of the crackdown.
The legal blood-alcohol content in Pennsylvania is 0.08 percent for motorists over the age of 21 and 0.02 percent for underage drivers. DUI penalties can include jail time, license suspension and fines of between $500 and $5,000.
COURSES FOR OFFENDERS
Licensed by the Pennsylvania DUI Association in Harrisburg, DUI Services works with the Monroe County DUI Court Reporting Network, providing mandatory courses for first-time and second-time convicted DUI offenders as part of their sentences, Arciprete said.
Those convicted for the first time are considered second-time offenders if convicted again within 10 years.
Offenders over 21 take a 12.5-hour course, which is offered online for those who’ve been convicted in but live outside of Monroe County. Underage offenders take a six-hour Saturday course, which is not offered online.
DUI Services, which has a total of nine full-time and part-time administrators, instructors and evaluators, reports back to the court on which offenders have successfully completed the courses and which ones haven’t.
“We recently had an offender in the underage course who was killed in a DUI crash,” said underage court instructor John Landolfi.
DRUGS AND DRIVING
Course topics include what the legal blood-alcohol limits are, how long it takes to become legally intoxicated and responsibly avoiding DUI.
“Prescription drugs are becoming a huge problem,” said evaluator/instructor Phillip Weber. “We’ve had some offenders convicted for driving under the influence of prescription meds. They say their doctors never told them not to drive on these meds. The label instructions on the containers say not to drive on meds, but don’t say specifically it’s unlawful to do so.
“If you’re found driving with a combination of a prescribed medication and an opiate prescription like methadone or oxycodone in your system, that’s an automatic DUI offense, regardless of whether you’re actually impaired or not,” Weber said. “It’s the same if you’re found with a combination of alcohol and a prescription drug in your system.”
Those with three or more DUI convictions within a 10-year period aren’t eligible for the course, but instead are sentenced to treatment along with jail time and fines.
“With statistics showing about 32 alcohol-related crashes taking place in Pennsylvania each day, about 1.2 people being killed in those crashes and about another 23 people being injured, we want to change people’s attitudes about drinking and driving,” Arciprete said.
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