The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

January 3, 2013

Byrne: Single DUI arrest is sign education, prevention working

Staff reports
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — The director of a regional prevention center said the single DUI arrest made in Enid during New Year’s celebration is a sign education and prevention efforts are working.

“We hold our breath every year, worried whether someone is going to be killed due to drunk driving on New Year’s Eve,” said Sean Byrne, PreventionWorkz executive director. “When we read that there was one arrest it showed, hopefully, that people are getting the message.”

Byrne credits the work of Enid Police Department, Garfield County Sheriff’s Department and the volunteers with the Alcohol and Drug Coalition as being the impetus for the small number of DUIs over the holiday.

“All the various organizations coming together to acknowledge and address the issue shows that Garfield County is committed to saving lives,” Byrne said. “Nobody is saying adults can’t or shouldn’t drink, but what we are saying is don’t get behind the wheel after you’ve been drinking.

“You put your life and everyone else’s in danger at that point, and we’ve lost too many wonderful people over the years because of drinking and driving.”

In 2011, 32 percent of all traffic fatalities in Oklahoma were related to alcohol use, he said.

Byrne expressed concern over reports of underage drinking parties that reportedly occurred New Year’s Eve.

“I don’t have detailed information, but I hope that the parties weren’t ‘adult sponsored’ activities.” he said.  

Oklahoma’s Social Host law states if people under the age of 21 are drinking alcohol at a gathering, the individual providing the location for that gathering is breaking the law, whether they’re an adult or a minor, and whether they rent, own, or simply provide the location.

Fines can range from $500 up to a felony and five years in prison if someone is injured, killed or the individual is a repeat offender.

Oklahoma’s Social Host law also is known as “Cody’s Law” after Cody Ryan Greenhaw. Greenhaw died in 2004 at age 16 during a gathering in a friend’s home, where the friend’s parents allegedly knew alcohol and drugs were routinely used by the teens while in their home.

“Adults sometimes think they’re protecting kids by having these parties in their homes.” said Byrne. “What they don’t realize is that, not only is it illegal, but it undermines other parents and it exposes these kids to numerous health problems, including alcohol poisoning, car crashes, suicide, homicide and assaults. Not to mention that the earlier an individual starts drinking, the greater the risk of future addiction.”

Preventing underage alcohol use is one of the identified goals of Garfield County Alcohol and Drug Coalition and PreventionWorkz, through funding provided by Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.