Designate a sober driver this Fourth of July: Local police will increase patrols this weekend

By Cindy Toland Jun 27, 2016

Celebrating the Fourth of July with fireworks, picnics, friends and family is a favorite American pastime. Unfortunately, too much celebrating can lead to drinking and driving, which often ends in tragedy. WMC Safe Communities urges everyone to plan ahead by designating or hiring a sober driver this Independence Day. 

In all 50 states and the District of Columbia, it’s illegal to drive with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 grams per deciliter or higher. Yet over the Fourth of July period in 2014 (July 3-7), 164 people were killed in crashes involving at least one driver or motorcycle operator with a BAC of .08 or higher. That’s 41 percent of the total number of people killed in crashes (397) over the same period.

Of those 164 lives lost to drunk driving, 113 people died in crashes involving at least one driver or motorcycle operator with a BAC of .15 or higher. That’s almost twice the set limit. And 2014 was not the beginning of this deadly trend. From 2010 to 2014, among all vehicle crash fatalities over the Fourth of July holiday, an average of 39 percent involved drunk drivers.

In Natrona County, there were six drunk-driving arrests during the July Fourth holiday period in 2015.

“It’s clear there are far too many drivers around Natrona County who think ‘buzzed’ driving is OK. The truth is, you don’t have to be trashed to get arrested for drunk driving. Remember: Buzzed driving is drunk driving,” said John Hatcher, a detective with the Casper Police Department. 

“Local police will be increasing patrols this weekend, targeting drunk drivers, in an effort to end drunk driving and save lives. Drunk driving is completely preventable. All it takes is a little planning.”

The group most likely to drive drunk are younger drivers 18 to 34 years old — an age group consistently overrepresented in fatal alcohol-impaired-driving crashes. In 2014, over half (58 percent) of the young drivers killed in crashes had BACs of .08 or higher.

Motorcycle operators are also overrepresented, as compared to car and truck drivers. In 2014, 29 percent of motorcycle operators involved in fatal crashes were impaired.

Nighttime driving is particularly dangerous because of drunk drivers, and the July Fourth holiday is no exception. The rate of alcohol impairment among drivers involved in fatal crashes was over three times higher at night than during the day in 2014.

“Alcohol not only impairs your driving but your judgment, which is why you may think you’re fine to drive home, but you’re not," Hatcher said. "And that’s why it’s so important to plan a safe way to get home before you drink.”

Prevent drunk driving by never getting behind the wheel after drinking.Follow these simple tips for a safe Fourth of July:

  • Plan a safe way home before the fun begins.
  • Designate a sober driver or use public transportation to get home safely.
  • Download the Drive Sober Wyoming app, available for Android. 
  • You can also use our community’s sober ride program, SAFE RIDE (ask your bartender for more details).
  • If you see a drunk driver on the road, don’t hesitate to report it to local law enforcement. Remember, Buzzed driving is drunk driving. If you know people who are about to drive or ride after drinking, take their keys and help them make other arrangements to get to where they are going safely.

More information on impaired driving can be found at www.trafficsafetymarketing.gov.

CINDY TOLAND

Safe Communities educates on the dangers of at-risk behavior and addresses issues such as drinking and driving, seat belt and car seat usage, and texting and driving. Cindy Toland is coordinator for Wyoming Medical Center Region 2 Safe Communities. Call her at 577-2134 or email her at ctoland@wyomingmedicalcenter.org.

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