Buzzed driving is drunk driving: Designate a sober driver this July 4

By Cindy Toland Jun 30, 2015

Safe Communities - July 4th FB (1)

The Fourth of July is a favorite American holiday, but celebrating can quickly turn to tragedy when people choose to drive after drinking.  Safe Communities Region 2 is urging everyone to plan ahead this Independence Day. Designate a sober driver ahead of time.

“The Fourth of July festivities can be so much fun,” said John Hatcher, a detective with the Casper Police Department.  “People make plans for the partying, but too many drivers don’t plan ahead to get home safely. We’ve seen that too many drivers around Casper think that it’s OK to drive ‘buzzed.’ The truth is you don’t have to be completely wasted to get arrested for drunk driving. Remember: Buzzed Driving is Drunk Driving.”

In all 50 States and the District of Columbia, it is illegal to drive with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 grams per deciliter or higher.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports there were 10,076 fatalities involving drunk driving in 2013, accounting for 31 percent of the total motor vehicle traffic deaths that year. That equals about one alcohol-impaired-driving death every 52 minutes.

In 2013, Forbes magazine named the Independence Day holiday “the most dangerous holiday of the year.”

Drunk-driving fatalities are high year-round, but they typically spike during holidays like the Fourth of July.  During the Independence Day holiday weekend in 2013, 512 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes, and of these, 199 (39 percent) died in crashes involving at least one driver or motorcycle operator with a BAC of .08 or higher. From 2009 to 2013, among all crash fatalities around the Fourth of July holiday period, 39 percent—on average—involved drunk drivers.

In Natrona County, there were seven DUIs during the July Fourth holiday period in 2014.

Certain drivers are more likely than others to drive drunk. Younger drivers 18 to 34 years old are consistently overrepresented in fatal alcohol-impaired-driving crashes. In 2013, almost half (45 percent) of the young drivers killed in crashes had BACs of .08 or higher. The Drive Sober Wyoming app can be used to quickly call or text a friend for a ride if you are too drunk to drive. Or it can list taxi companies in several Wyoming towns, as shown in this screen shot.

“Here’s what we want people to understand,” Hatcher said.  “Alcohol not only impairs your ability to drive, it impairs your judgment about whether you can or should drive.  Sure, you may think you’re ‘fine’, but you’re not.”

Follow 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, use a taxi, call a sober friend or family member, or use public transportation so you are sure to get home safely. Or use the new Drive Sober Wyoming app which helps users phone or text a friend for a ride, or lists numbers of local cab companies.
  • Use our community’s sober ride program Safe Ride.
  • If you see a drunk driver on the road, don’t hesitate to contact your local law enforcement.
  • 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.

More information on avoiding 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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