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Education could cut drunken driving in W.Va., expert says

May 06, 1999|By BRYN MICKLE

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Education is the key to cutting down on alcohol-related accidents along the "Ho Chi Minh Trail" of clubs and bars on U.S. 11 in Berkeley County, according to a state Alcohol Beverage Control Administration specialist.

The stretch of 17 alcohol establishments along 11.5 miles of U.S. 11 between Martinsburg and the Virginia state line has drawn fire from residents who link deaths and accidents on area roads to the availability of alcohol along U.S. 11.

West Virginia ABCA training and education specialist Dick Weller told the Berkeley County Commission on Thursday he understands those concerns, but said the state has had success with an education program designed to cut the number of alcohol-related accidents.

The state has trained more than 1,100 employees, managers and owners of alcohol establishments in West Virginia, Maryland and Virginia since beginning the Training and Education on Alcohol Management program last year, said Weller.

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The four-hour TEAM class centers on preventing and identifying intoxication, as well as establishing designated driver programs.

Larry Luttrell, owner of Gables Night Club on U.S. 11 in Ridgeway, said the program also encourages establishments to call the police if intoxicated patrons resist all other efforts to keep them from getting behind the wheel of a car.

He added he has had to call police in West Virginia and Virginia five times to report a drunken driver.

"You can't babysit people," said Luttrell. "But you can educate them."

While the state make the ultimate decision on granting liquor licenses, Weller said it is important to work with county commissions.

"There was a problem along that road (U.S. 11)," said Weller. "This program has reduced that problem and will continue to reduce it."

The presentation drew praise from Berkeley County commissioners D. Wayne Dunham and Robert L. Burkhart, who said they were happy to hear that steps were being taken to address the issue.

County Commissioner John Wright, an outspoken critic of alcohol, was absent from the afternoon presentation. He spoke earlier in the day against drinking at government-related functions.

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