FRANKFORT – The Fourth of July is a favorite American holiday filled with fun, food, fireworks, friends and family. However, celebrating can quickly turn to tragedy when people choose to drive after drinking. The Kentucky Office of Highway Safety (KOHS) is urging everyone to plan ahead this Independence Day and designate a sober driver.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports drunken driving fatalities typically spike during holidays such as the Fourth of July. During the Independence Day holiday in 2012 (the latest year numbers are available), 179 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes, and of these, 78 died in crashes involving at least one driver or motorcycle operator with a blood alcohol content of 0.08 or higher. Unfortunately, 2012 wasn’t a fluke; from 2008-2012, among all crash fatalities around the Fourth of July, 40 percent — on average — involved drunken drivers.
“We want you to enjoy the Independence Day holiday, but please be smart,” KOHS Director Bill Bell said. “If you know you’re going to drink — whether with friends at a bar or attending a party — designate a sober driver ahead of time or call a taxi to make sure you get home safely.”
According to NHTSA, there were 10,322 fatalities involving drunken driving in 2012, accounting for 31 percent of the total motor vehicle traffic deaths for that year. That equals approximately one alcohol-impaired-driving death every 51 minutes.
Nighttime driving is particularly dangerous because of drunken drivers. During the July 4th holiday period in 2012, the rate of alcohol impairment among drivers involved in fatal crashes was almost 2.5 times higher at night than during the day.
“Here’s what we want people to understand,” Bell said. “Alcohol not only impairs your ability to drive, it impairs your judgment about whether you can or should drive. You may think you’re ‘fine,’ but you’re not. Please, prevent drunken driving by only driving completely sober.”
To prevent tragedies from occurring, KOHS recommends the following steps for a safe and happy Independence Day:
Before the festivities begin, plan a way to safely get home at the end of the night.
Before drinking, designate a sober driver and leave your car keys at home.
If you’re impaired, use a taxi, call a sober friend or family member, or use public transportation to get home safely.
If you see a drunken driver on the road, contact local police. You could save a life.
And remember, if you know people who are about to drive or ride while impaired, take their keys and help them make other arrangements to get them safely to where they are going.
Adding one more tool to combat drinking and driving, KOHS partnered with Mobile Life Solutions last year to develop a “No DUI Kentucky” application.
With information about local taxi services and sober ride programs, along with a one-touch dial feature to report a drunken driver and a link to Kentucky’s HERO designated driver campaign website (kentuckyheroes.org), the app aids in the fight against drunken driving.
The free “No DUI Kentucky” app is available to download in the Apple App Store, Google Play Store and the Windows Phone Store. Or, it can be downloaded at www.DriveSoberKY.com.