Driving After Holiday Drinking May Take You To Intoxicated Drivers Center

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Drunk Driving

It is the season to be jolly, to attend parties and functions where adult beverages are freely offered; but drink and drive and you might end up at the Ocean County Health Department's Intoxicated Drivers Resource Center (IDRC), according to a department spokesperson.

'State law requires judges to order convicted first-time driving while intoxicated (DWI) offenders to attend a 12-hour IDRC course,' said Edward Rumen, department Public Information Officer. 'The course is held on a Friday and Saturday and each client must attend a consecutive two day cycle. Currently each student pays $230 for the course,' he added.

The course covers such areas as symptoms of addiction, social problems with drinking, the heredity factor in alcoholism, environmental issues and other topics. It is presented by licensed, trained specialists within the Health Department's Alcohol and Drugs Services division.

'The course is a mandatory tool designed to alert drivers to the dangers of drinking and driving,' Rumen stated. 'We get all types of people here, but many of them have a family history of alcoholism.'

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Rumen said each student completes a self-assessment form required by the state.

'The forms are reviewed by the counselors, who recommend those with more serious problems for a full evaluation, which can result in 16 additional one-hour counseling sessions at an additional cost to them,' he said. 'The evaluations and counseling are conducted at state-approved clinics.'

'Once convicted of drunk driving, a nightmare begins,' Rumen said. 'By the time the ordeal is completed, the average drunk driver will have paid close to $10,000 in fines, court costs, lawyer fees, motor vehicle surcharges, insurance surcharges, license restoration fees, IDRC tuition and other miscellaneous expenses'And that is for a first time conviction.'

'The message about not drinking and driving is getting through to most Ocean County drivers,' said Freeholder Gerry P. Little. 'During the 1990s, the number of IDRC attendees declined yearly. The numbers are starting to creep up again, but the population is significantly higher than a decade ago. It is important that the valuable message about the consequences of drinking and driving get out to our younger drivers most of all. If caught driving while intoxicated, the personal costs can be tremendous, in addition to the loss of license.'

Rumen said the IDRC course is given at least three times a month at the Ocean County Health Department Building on Sunset Avenue in Toms River. 'We are trying to save lives, careers and families by educating first-time offenders to the dangers of alcohol and driving.'

Rumen said every county provides an IDRC course for first-time offenders. 'There are regional centers for second offenders, consisting of an overnight 48-hour session that is offered in lieu of jail. Each subsequent DWI conviction brings with it more severe penalties, as does the blood-alcohol level of the driver at time of arrest,' he said.

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