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.
This Fourth of July, Lucas County is stepping up police presence throughout the 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 Det. Mark Woodruff, coordinator for the Lucas County OVI Task Force. “Police will have zero tolerance for drivers who choose to drink and drive this July 4th, putting themselves and everyone else on Lucas County roads at risk.”
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.
Fifty-one percent or 18 of the 35 traffic fatalities in Lucas County in 2012 were alcohol or drug related. Since 2004, 44 percent of the motor vehicle fatalities in Lucas County involved a driver under the influence of alcohol or drugs and 165 people died in these crashes.
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.
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’s licenses, vehicle impoundment, jail time, lawyer fees, court costs, insurance hikes, just to name a few.
Remember 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, contact local law enforcement by calling 911 or 1-800-GRABDUI.
• If you know someone who is about to drive or ride while impaired, take his or her keys and help make other transportation arrangements.