As the former Director of the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety for Governor Janet Napolitano, we worked to decrease the number of fatalities and injuries due to impaired driving. The Fourth of July is one of America’s favorite holidays. Families and friends gather to celebrate our country with food, parades, parties, picnics and fireworks. And yet there is a very dark side to this great holiday. For many, the celebration includes alcohol, but the holiday quickly goes from festive to fatal when people choose to drive after drinking. From 2009-2013, nearly 40 percent of all traffic fatalities over the Fourth of July period occurred in alcohol-impaired-driving crashes. In 2013, Forbes magazine named the Independence Day holiday “the most dangerous holiday of the year.”
To crack down on drunk driving this Fourth of July, law enforcement will be out in full force, aggressively targeting those who put lives in danger. Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows that 10,076 people were killed in drunk-driving crashes in the United States in 2013—representing almost a third of all crash fatalities. By comparison, during the July Fourth period that year, 39 percent of all crash fatalities involved alcohol-impaired drivers. In every state, it is illegal to drive with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or higher, yet people continue to break the law and drive drunk. The rate of high-BAC impaired driving is astounding. In fatal crashes during the July Fourth period in 2013, more than one-fifth (21%) of involved drivers or motorcycle operators had BACs of .15 or higher—almost twice the legal limit. Law enforcement is not messing around this Independence Day: if you’re caught driving drunk, you will be arrested. And keep in mind that aside from puƫting your life and the lives of others at risk, driving impaired can also lead to serious consequences. A DUI arrest can mean time in jail, loss of your license and steep financial expenses. The average DUI costs about $10,000. If you do decide to drink this 4th of July, please make the following preparations beforehand: 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 call 911. If you know someone who is about to drive or ride while impaired, take your friend’s keys and help your friend make other arrangements to get to where he or she is going safely.