Editorial: A safe Fourth

Parades, picnics, parties and fireworks.

FI-fireworksThe Independence Day weekend is one of the most festive of the year, but it is important to remember to keep the partying in check if you are driving. Not doing so could land you in a lot of trouble, as state and local police remind us to “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over.”

Holiday celebrations often include alcohol, but things can quickly go from festive to fatal when people choose to drive impaired. According to the Connecticut Department of Transportation (DOT), from 2009 to 2013, nearly 40% of all traffic fatalities over the Fourth of July period were attributed to alcohol-impaired driving crashes.

To crack down on drunk driving this holiday, state and local law enforcement throughout Connecticut will be out in force, aggressively targeting those who put their lives and the lives of others in danger.

Thousands killed in drunk-driving accidents

Despite decades of education and tough penalties, driving under the influence is still a significant problem. Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration show that 10,076 people were killed in drunk-driving crashes in the United States in 2013 — almost a third of all crash fatalities.

In every state, it is illegal to drive with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 grams per deciliter (g/dL) or higher, yet people continue to break the law and drive drunk. The rate of high-BAC impaired driving is surprisingly high. In fatal crashes during the July Fourth period in 2013, more than one-fifth (21%) of involved drivers or motorcycle operators had BACs of 0.15 or higher — almost twice the legal limit.

During that same holiday period, 35% of young drivers (18 to 34 years old) killed in fatal crashes were legally intoxicated. Motorcycle operators are also among the highest percentage of alcohol-impaired drivers in fatal crashes. In 2013, more than one-quarter (27%) of motorcyclists in fatal crashes had BACs of 0.08 or higher.

A DUI arrest can mean time in jail, loss of license, and steep financial expenses; the average DUI costs about $10,000, according to the DOT.

Steps to stay safe

To help make this a safe holiday weekend all around, please consider the following.

• 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 law enforcement.

• 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 about the Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign, visit TrafficSafetyMarketing.gov.

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