We often hear statistics that we only briefly register and then just as quickly forget, assuming—hoping—that those statistics will never touch us. How could we possibly know those faceless numbers? In 2015, 10,265 people were killed in drunk-driving-related car crashes, accounting for nearly one-third of all traffic fatalities. That is 10,265 mothers, fathers, children, siblings, friends, grandparents, and so many more. To put it into perspective, that’s one person killed every 51 minutes. It’s the equivalent of 20 jumbo jets crashing, with no survivors. Where is the outrage?
This year, families and friends will head out to picnics and parties on Tuesday, July 4, to celebrate our nation’s independence. The Van Buren County Sheriff’s Office, the SAFE Coalition and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration want to remind you that any time you drive under the influence of alcohol, you put everyone in danger, including yourself. Don’t be a 2017 statistic—help us spread this lifesaving message: Buzzed Driving Is Drunk Driving.
In every state and the District of Columbia, it’s illegal to drive with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or higher. Yet, during the 2015 July Fourth holiday period (6 p.m. July 2 to 5:59 a.m. July 6), 146 people died in motor vehicle crashes involving at least one drunk driver or motorcycle operator (BAC of .08 or higher), accounting for a quarter of the deaths. Ninety-two people died in crashes involving at least one driver or motorcycle operator with a BAC of .15 or higher—nearly twice the legal limit.
This Fourth of July, the Sheriff’s Office and SAFE Coalition are asking the community to make a plan before heading out to the holiday festivities. Every year, we see the devastating consequences of those who choose to drink and drive. Some years, our very own community is affected by drunk driving. This senseless behavior must end. There are so many other options available to get you home safely. Not using these resources is reckless and irresponsible.
NHTSA data shows that young drivers (18 to 34 years old) are especially at risk of driving drunk. In fact, 46 percent of the drivers 18 to 34 years old who were killed in crashes over the July Fourth period in 2015 were driving drunk (BAC of .08 or higher). Motorcycle operators are also overrepresented with the highest percentage of alcohol-impaired drivers in fatal crashes. In 2015, more than a third (36%) of motorcycle operators in fatal crashes had BACs of .08 or higher.
Drunk drivers are also more common at night. Over the July Fourth holiday period in 2015, nearly half (44%) of the drivers in nighttime (6 p.m. to 5:59 a.m.) fatal crashes were alcohol-impaired, compared to 19 percent of drivers in fatal crashes during the day.
We’re at the mercy of the community. It’s up to you to be responsible when you drink alcohol. Please, please—always designate a sober driver, even if you think you’ll only have one drink. Drinking and driving is never a good idea, and it endangers you and everyone around you. Remember: Buzzed Driving Is Drunk Driving.
Remember that it is never okay to drink and drive. Even if you’ve just had one alcoholic beverage, designate a sober driver or use public transportation to get home safely. The Sheriff’s Office and SAFE Coalition recommend these safe alternatives to drinking and driving.
· Download NHTSA’s SaferRide mobile app available on Google Play for Android devices: (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.nhtsa.SaferRide&hl=en), and Apple’s ITunes Store for IOS devices: (https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/saferride/id950774008?mt=8). SaferRide allows users to call a predetermined friend, and identifies the user’s location so they can be picked up.
· If you see a drunk driver on the road, contact the Van Buren County Sheriff’s Office.
· Know a friend who is about to drink and drive? Take the keys away and make arrangements to get your friend home safely.
Drinking and driving is dangerous, even if you’re “just buzzed.” When you drive impaired, you risk your life and safety, and the lives and safety of those riding with you and around you. Does mortality not get your attention? Maybe money will: A DUI arrest could cost you up to $10,000, not to mention the loss of your vehicle and only driver’s license. You could face jail time, higher insurance rates, and hefty expenses from attorney fees, fines, car towing, repairs, and lost time at work.