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GSP Trooper talks DUI Zero Tolerance Policy with Kiwanis Club during meeting

Thursday afternoon Georgia State Patrol Trooper Brian Palmer was the guest at Kiwanis Club, where he spoke on the rise in DUI statistics and the kickoff of GSP’s DUI Zero Tolerance and 100 days of summer seatbelt enforcement.

Palmer began by going over some statistics from the past few years.

In 2015, there were a little over 1,400 vehicle fatalities, with 358 being from DUI drivers. In 2016, there were approximately 1,500 vehicle fatalities with 378 being from DUI drivers. The number continued to climb. In 2017 there were 1,540 vehicle fatalities, 357 of which were caused by DUI drivers. In 2018, there were 1,505 fatalities with 379 being caused by DUI drivers and in 2020, there were 1,600 fatalities, 406 of which were caused by DUI drivers.

“It’s continued to jump, but we don’t know the reason why,” Palmer said. “It’s something we have to battle every day.”
Palmer explained 29 people die each day from DUI-related crashes.

Palmer said DUIs can range from alcohol to marijuana, opioids, pain pills, Xanax and more.

The amount of DUIs has costs the economy $51 billion each year in insurance policy, according to Palmer.

Nationally, DUIs are the leading cause of death for individuals under the age of 30. Those who are involved in DUI crashes have a 47% chance of dying if they are ejected from the vehicle, Palmer said.

“Seatbelts actually save right at 15,000 people, but 2.500 people lost their lives because they didn’t wear seatbelts,” he said.

To help with wearing seatbelts, the family of a man who passed away in a crash has started a campaign.

Former Auburn tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen died in a car accident in 2014 in LaGrange, Ga.

The accident was a single-car crash, and Lutzenkirchen was ejected from the vehicle. The driver and other two passengers were injured and the driver was under the influence of alcohol.

Following the crash, Lutzenkirchen’s family started the Lutzie 43 Foundation that encourages drivers to take 43 seconds to put on their seatbelt, silence their cellphone and prioritize their driving.

Palmer said troopers have an acronym they use “WIN” that stands for “What’s Important Now?”

The acronym reminds troopers to slow down, buckle their seatbelt and arrive alive.

“I know I drive too fast sometimes, but I have to remind myself to slow down that I would rather arrive at my son’s baseball game five minutes late than have my car wrapped around a tree,” Palmer said.

Palmer then opened the floor up to questions, where he was asked if DUIs have gone up since the pandemic. Palmer told the club, DUIs have increased, due to the increase in alcohol sales since the pandemic began.

Club members also asked Palmer if he is seeing younger drivers vape or drink more. Palmer told members that in his experience, he is seeing a shift where younger drivers are vaping or taking family member’s pain pills than drinking.

“They believe it’s undetectable on their breath,” Palmer said. “If you take that THC oil from a vape and do a test on it, it can be laced with fentanyl or heroine.”

Palmer said he can tell by the drivers’ eyes if they are under the influence of pills or alcohol. He then reminded everyone to have a designated driver and always buckle up before finishing his presentation.