Mocktail Mixer promotes Safe Driving

Editors note:  Originally Published in By Courtney Day T-G Staff Writer

APP’s Entry: Peppermint Egg Nog
1 2 liter of Ginger Ale
1 1/2 gallon Egg Nog
1 carton Peppermint

Attendance was light at Ashland County Safe Communities Coalition‘s Mocktail Mixer on Thursday, but community members and representatives from area businesses, organizations and law enforcement agencies had fun serving up safe-driving advice along with alcohol-free beverages.

The mixer was the first of its kind in Ashland County, and project director Laura Corbett said the coalition hopes to grow the event annually. Light turnout was not a deterrent for Corbett, who said a similar event in Lorian County had 25 attendees in its first year and now is turning people away with attendance as high as 500. Corbett said the Lorain County event is conducted in partnership with Lorian County Community College.

Corbett said the coalition’s message is not that everyone must abstain from alcohol but that those who choose to drink should plan ahead.

“We would like you to designate a driver before you drink, and if you don’t have that driver, just stay where you are,” Corbett said.

About 30 percent of traffic accidents in Ashland County involve alcohol, Corbett said.

Ruth Diehl of Ruth’s Driving Academy said about 400 of the 1,122 traffic fatalities in Ohio in 2012 were caused by teen drivers. Of those 400, she said, 26 percent were alcohol-related.

“It saddens me because of where these kids are getting alcohol,” Diehl said. “I know there are people in the community that will sell to them. There are parents that will serve.”

It takes about an hour for your body to process one drink, Diehl said, so often people do not realize that having just a few drinks or waiting a few hours after heavy drinking does not make it safe to drive.

Buzzed driving, she said, is the most likely to lead to accidents.

“We’re just trying to promote safety for all roadway users,” Diehl said. “Just be responsible and take care. We don’t want any more fatalities in Ashland.”

Lt. Ray Durant of the Ashland post of the State Highway Patrol said the holidays are a time to be especially cognizant of alcohol consumption and road safety as kids come home for the holidays and families come to town to visit and celebrate.

“I think prevention programs like this one today really help,” Ashland Fire Department Capt. Ken Gardner said while serving a Christmas punch drink on behalf of Ashland Fire Local 1386. “Especially this time of year, it seems like people are at events or going to parties.”

Other participants included the Ashland County-City Health Department, Ashland Parenting Plus and Annette’s Victorian Garden.

The judges chose the health department’s “Emerald Pizazz” as the drink with the best presentation and the Highway Patrol’s “Speed Chaser” — a colorful mixed drink served with a traffic ticket — as the judge’s choice award winner.

“I think it’s vital to the community that especially young people realize there are options to party safely,” said Mayor Glen Stewart, who served on the panel of judges.

Ellen Jones, 19, was home from her first year of college at the University of Northwestern Ohio and came to the mixer with her mother, Liz Jones.

Liz said the pair came to support Corbett, with whom they are friends. But she thought the event was a neat idea to raise community awareness about driving safety.

Ellen said she thinks that in college, “alcohol is like a popularity thing.”

She said some people she knows think they have to drink to make friends and have a good time, but she believes it’s possible to have just as much fun without consuming alcohol.

“I’ve met tons of people on campus and it wasn’t because I went to a party,” she said.

In addition to tasting eight different mocktail drinks, attendees at Thursday’s event enjoyed music provided by WNCO, bid on a number of items up for silent auction and played games like cornhole and “mocktail pong.”