Three Forks Voice - Connect With Your Community!

By Jack H. Smith
Three Forks Voice 

Task Force aims to reduce impaired driving

 

Pictured is the task force's DUI crash car outside of Belgrade High School to serve as a reminder of the dangers of driving intoxicated.

Initially formed in 1982 as Montanans Against Drunk Driving, the Gallatin County DUI Task Force has a mission to reduce the incidence of driving under the influence of alcohol and other drugs. With many traveling and recreating during the warmer time of the year, Task Force Coordinator Anna Ewen recently discussed the importance of prevention and education during the summer months.

"We have a lot of people coming into Montana from out of state who are unfamiliar with our roads. There are also a variety of summer activities that often involve drinking, such as fishing, floating the rivers, etc. It is vital that people stay alert and drive sober in order to keep themselves and others safe on the roads," Ewen said.

Working with area youth is also of supreme importance for the task force, and according to Ewen, educating youth on the dangers of impaired driving is essential to preventing DUIs.

"If they understand the dangers and consequences of driving under the influence, they are less likely to drink/use drugs and drive, even as they get older. Of the DUIs adjudicated in Gallatin County Justice Court in 2021, 40% of defendants were under 30; the youngest defendant was 16," Ewen said.

Among the work done by the local task force includes helping fund and pilot the Think Twice Program in bars in Gallatin County.

"Think Twice is a program that provides single-use breathalyzers to bar patrons to help them make the right decision about how to get home from the bar. Organizations can apply for a grant through our CEASE (Community Education Activity Support & Enforcement) Award program in order to fund a project that supports the character and mission of the DUI Task Force. Examples of CEASE Awards have included funding to help Law Enforcement Officers attend training to be Drug Recognition Experts," Ewen said.

Task Force members all attend and maintain a presence at events and gathering like Music on Main, the Manhattan Potato Festival, and Catapalooza. Ewen said their presence is to help remind the public of the importance of driving sober.

Ewen also stressed the significance of volunteers assisting the organization.

 "Without volunteers, we do not exist. Volunteers can officially join the Task Force or just help out at events or in the community. We are always looking for volunteers to help carry out our mission in a variety of ways," Ewen said.

For more information about the Gallatin County DUI Task Force, follow them on Facebook, Instagram @drivesobergallatin, or visit their website at drivesobergallatin.com.

"Always plan a sober ride. Always wear your seatbelt," Ewen said.

 

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