The Van Buren County SAFE Coalition urges everyone in Van Buren County to celebrate this Independence Day with a pledge to keep the region “independent” from drunk driving.
“The Fourth may be one of the nation’s most popular holidays, but, unfortunately, it’s also one of the most dangerous in terms of alcohol-related fatalities. Too many people think they can get behind the wheel because they’ve only had a few drinks and just have a ‘buzz’ on. The truth is you don’t have to be falling down drunk to be a menace to yourself and everyone around you on the highways. Remember: buzzed driving is drunk driving.”
Statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration underscore the toll drunk driving takes on the nation. NHTSA reports that there were 9,878 fatalities involving drunk driving in 2011, accounting for 31 percent of the total motor vehicle traffic deaths for that year. That worked out to about one death every 53 minutes in 2011.
Drunk driving fatalities spike during holidays like the Fourth of July. During the Independence Day holiday in 2011 (which ran from 6 p.m., July 1 to 5:59 p.m., July 5), 428 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes and, of these, 161 (38%) died in crashes involving at least one driver or motorcycle operator with a BAC of .08 g/dL or higher. A BAC of .08 is the legal intoxication limit recognized by all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the various territories of the United States.
The 2011 drunk-driving toll during the Fourth of July holiday was no mere statistical anomaly. NHTSA statistics for Independence Day fatalities over a five-year period (from 2007 to 2011) show that 40 percent of drunk driving fatalities involved drivers with BACs of .08 or higher. Even more disturbing, over the same five-year period, 66 percent of drunk-driving fatalities involved drivers who had BACs of at least .15 g/dL, almost twice the legal intoxication limit.
Younger drivers nationwide during 2011 still weren’t getting the message that drunk driving is dangerous, according to the NHTSA statistics. During the 2011 July 4th holiday, 52 percent of young (18- to 34-year old) drivers killed in motor vehicle traffic crashes were legally drunk (having BACs of .08 or higher).
Nighttime is particularly dangerous every day of the year, and the July 4th holiday is no exception. During the July Fourth holiday period in 2011, the rate of alcohol impairment among drivers involved in fatal crashes was almost 4.5 times higher at night than during the day.
Such statistics tell a tragic tale. Alcohol not only impairs your ability to drive, it impairs your judgment about whether you can or should drive. By the time you get behind the wheel, even if you only have a buzz on, the truth is you’re too drunk to drive. The best thing to keep in mind is simply: Buzzed driving is drunk driving.
The SAFE Coalition 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, call a sober friend or family member so you are sure to get home safely;
· If you happen to see a drunk driver on the road, don’t hesitate to contact the Van Buren County Sheriff’s Office at 319-293-3426 or 911;
· And remember, Buzzed Driving is Drunk Driving. If you know people who are about to drive or ride while impaired, take their keys and help them make other arrangements to get to where they are going safely.