Drinking or using drugs and then driving is a Choice, not an Option.

That's the message being driven home by the Ocean County Prosecutor and the Ocean County Health Department who along with former New York Giants offensive lineman and two-time Super Bowl champion, David Diehl, are urging motorists of all ages to have a game-plan and not get behind the wheel if they're impaired.

In an effort to bring more awareness to the message, the Ocean County Health Department hosted their annual 'Healthy Living and Education Expo' where they presented information on addiction, driving safety, healthy living, access to care services, blood pressure and glucose screenings and diabetes prevention tips.

The education expo included clinician services, police on site from several departments to answer questions from the public as well as practice DUI stops and fatal vision goggle demonstrations.

The main focus of the event was educating people on the dangers of getting behind the wheel while impaired.

Chief of Administrative Services for the Ocean County Health Department, Peter Curatolo, says a DUI conviction will follow you around for the rest of your life.

"I implore a young person, I implore any person, a person on medication or a person that's thinking about smoking medical marijuana and driving...you must think before you do it. Other than the up to $10,000 for the first penalty along with all the ancillary fines you're going to have an insurance hit that's going to be cost prohibitive for you to drive," Curatolo said. "We want a young person to make a good decision before a bad thought enters their mind and that's what this expo is about."

Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley Billhimer says it's important to reiterate the message of don't drive while impaired.

"We're seeing the levels of impaired driving, people driving under the influence of drugs rise, and we want to make sure that they understand the dangers that are still there, whether they're under the influence of alcohol or drugs," Billhimer said. "You're really taking your life in your own hands and God forbid the lives of everybody else out on the road."

The driver of a porsche that flew into an office building on Hooper Avenue in Toms River in November 2019 had a Blood Alcohol Concentration of .189 as well as 22 nanograms of marijuana in his system at the time of the crash killing him and his passenger.

On that note, Prosecutor Billhimer said it's important to shine a light on what combining alcohol and drugs can do to your system when sitting behind the wheel, "especially when you're operating a motor vehicle like that with that kind of power, in just a few seconds your entire life can change and your entire life can end."

The Ocean County Prosecutors Office is continuing to spread awareness by shining a light on the Kimberly Smith Ames campaign.

Ames was 23-years old, married for four months and was three months pregnant when she was hit and killed by a drunk driver.

"The Prosecutors Office is going to unveil a new round of billboards and try to raise awareness of drunk driving and the dangers that can come from it," Billhimer said. "You'll be seeing these signs hopefully in local businesses and some billboards around the Ocean County Mall. I think it's very important for people to remember her face and remember, really, the horror that her family went through and is still going through."

Two time SuperBowl Champion and Offensive Lineman with the New York Giants, David Diehl, who was a guest speaker at the event, said if you're an athlete heading out for a night with friends, have a game-plan.

"These aren't the old days where you call a cab and have to wait a half-an-hour, sit there and look for someone to drive you or take public transportation. When you have apps like Uber or Lyft that can be there immediately, that's an easy source to take," Diehl said. "For an athlete or someone in every day life, it's about having a game-plan before you go out and spend time with your friends and enjoy yourself and have a great night that ends up being one where you get home safely."

Diehl said it's important to make the right choices for yourself and the healthy ones.

"My competitive advantage for my 12-seasons in the NFL and throughout my career was I was in the best shape possible, legally, the right way, and not cheating and taking performance enhancing drugs," Diehl said. "I took a diet, worked on my nutrition and made sure I knew everything about my body and what I needed to correct. It was about being in condition, being physically ready to play those games and knowing my playbook in and out cold. In any event whether you win or lose, you don't lose a lesson and you don't walk away from the game with regret. It's very easy to fall into that pitfall, especially as an athlete."

Diehl explains that it's also important to try and find other ways to alleviate pain so you're not hooked on painkillers.

"It's easy to sit here and say 'okay, maybe I'll just take one on game-day to get over my ankle injury' and the all of the sudden they're taking it on game-day and then they're taking it on Monday and Tuesday and then they're falling into a pitfall where now it becomes an addiction and they're taking it every single day," Diehl said. "They're are so many other ways out there...whether it's going to a chiropractor or getting acupuncture or just going and getting stretched out or yoga which I'm still doing here at 6'7, 39-years old because it makes me feel good."

Diehl said athletes have an example to set to people and younger fans who look up to them.

"When you get to that point in your life where you are a celebrity or a professional athlete, people do look up to you, from pee wee kids all the way up, so you have to be an example ,you have to be someone that learns from their mistakes," Diehl said. "You have to rise to that challenge, you can't hideaway from it."

There are several takeaways from the expo at the Ocean County Mall but the primary focus is on the fact that drinking/using drugs and then driving is a Choice, not an Option.

If you're thinking about getting behind the wheel while impaired and under the influence...don't.

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