Americans love to celebrate the Fourth of July with family, friends, food and fireworks, but too often alcohol turns the party into a tragedy, making this iconic holiday one of the most deadly days of the year on the nation’s roads.
That’s why this Fourth of July Washington County is stepping up police presence throughout the local region as part of the ongoing “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” enforcement crackdown to catch and arrest impaired drivers who put themselves and others at risk.
“Local police will be out in force throughout this Independence Day, on the lookout for motorists who have had too much alcohol to be behind the wheel of a vehicle,” said Undersheriff John Winchell. “Police will have zero tolerance for alcohol scofflaws who drink and drive this July 4th, putting themselves and everyone else on Washington County roads at risk of life and limb.”
The latest statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, underscore the continuing toll drunk driving imposes on the nation. Impaired-driving crashes killed 9,878 people in 2011, accounting for 31 percent of the total traffic fatalities in the United States. That’s an average of one alcohol-impaired-driving fatality every 53 minutes, according to NHTSA.
The percentage of fatalities from impaired driving spike around the Fourth of July. According to NHTSA, 251 people were killed in motor vehicle traffic crashes during the Fourth of July holiday in 2011 (which ran from 6 p.m., July 1, to 5:59 a.m., July 5.) Of those fatalities, 38 percent were in crashes that involved at least one driver or motorcycle operator with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 grams per deciliter or higher. A BAC of .08 g/dL is the legal intoxication limit in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the various U.S. territories.
The level of drunk-driving fatalities is not unique to 2011. According to additional data from NHTSA, during July 4th holidays over the last five years (from 2007 to 2011), 780 people lost their lives in crashes involving drivers who had BACs of .08 g/dL or higher. These fatalities accounted for 40 percent of all highway deaths over the five-year period.
Over this same period, NHTSA statistics also showed that 511 people died in crashes involving drivers who were very drunk, having BACs of .15 percent or more (meaning the drivers were at least nearly twice the national legal intoxication limit of .08 g/dL).
Fourth of July celebrations often extend well into the evening and night, and statistics mark well the combined dangers of alcohol and night driving. In 2011, the proportion of alcohol impairment among drivers involved in fatal crashes was almost 4.5 times higher at night.
And young drivers still aren’t getting the message about the dangers of drinking and driving. During the July 4th holiday period in 2011, more than half (52 percent) of young drivers 18 to 34 years old killed in alcohol-related crashes were legally drunk.
While death and injury are of course the most serious of possible consequences of drunk driving, there are other negative considerations that can affect lives for many years, including loss of a driver licenses, vehicle impoundment, jail time, lawyer fees, court costs, insurance hikes, just to name a few.
“Those who try to drink and drive this Fourth of July should be forewarned. We will be out in force looking for impaired drivers, and we will catch and arrest you. No warnings. No excuses. If you drive impaired, you will be arrested,” said Undersheriff John Winchell.
The Washington County Sheriff’s Office recommends these simple tips for a safe Fourth of July:
· Plan a safe way home before the fun begins;
· Before drinking, designate a sober driver;
· If you’re impaired, use a taxi, call a sober friend or family member, or use public transportation;
· If you happen to see a drunk driver on the road, don’t hesitate to contact the Washington County Sheriff’s Office
· And remember, “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over.” If you know someone who is about to drive or ride while impaired, take their keys and help them make other arrangements to get to where they are going safely.
· For more information, please visit www.nhtsa.gov/drivesober.
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