This July 4th weekend, Georgians will leave home behind and pack the kids in the family car headed for their favorite summer vacation destinations. It’s time for sun-soaked holiday reunions where friends gather with barbecue, boating, beaches and cold beer on their minds.
But it’s also time for the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety (GOHS) to remind all motorists to plan ahead wherever they plan to party this summer. And that means planning for a designated driver is priority one before any July 4th festivities begin.
Unfortunately July 4th has joined the growing list of America’s heavy-drinking holidays like Halloween, St. Patrick’s Day, Cinco de Mayo, Super Bowl Sunday and New Year’s Eve. Every motorist should be aware that one-out-of-five traffic fatalities in Georgia are now alcohol-related. Statistics show drivers with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or higher are 11 times more likely to die in a crash than if involved in that same crash with no alcohol in their system at all.
There’s nothing wrong with adults socializing with adult beverages, but add car keys to the mix and drinking-and-driving makes a deadly cocktail. Some drivers just won’t leave their “Margaritaville vacation mentality” behind. They carelessly climb behind the wheel while impaired and that’s when the trouble starts.
And that’s why highway safety advocates across the country call the July 4th travel period one of this nation’s most dangerous times on our roadways due to DUIs. The history of this all-American travel holiday tells the tale. About a third of all fatal crashes on our nation’s roads during the July 4th weekend involve at least one driver with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or higher.
In Georgia, nearly half the state’s 14 July 4th traffic deaths involved at least one drunk driver in 2007.
So every July 4th holiday the Georgia Governor’s Office of Highway Safety coordinates more than 500 Georgia police departments, sheriff’s offices and state patrol posts statewide to run concentrated patrols on our interstates and to set up sobriety checkpoints on our roadways. Safe drivers go on their way, but impaired drivers go to jail.
So while everyone else is watching the sky for colorful lights during July 4th fireworks, anyone who drives drunk should watch for blue lights in their rearview mirror instead. The Operation Zero Tolerance message is simple: No warning tickets. No exceptions. Drunk drivers go to jail.
If you plan to party this July 4th, remember there are so many simple ways to prevent tragedy. Arrange for a sober driver, store taxi cab company numbers in your cell phone, or take mass transit. If you’re the designated driver, you too can help by reminding passengers about open container laws and not allowing alcohol to be consumed in your car, by obeying all traffic laws, and by making sure everyone always buckles-up.
Remember, impaired driving is no accident or victimless crime. Know your limits, be responsible and be prepared to call 911 if you see an impaired driver endangering other lives on the road. Don’t let the Fourth of July blow up in your face. Take a stand and declare your independence from drunk driving this July 4th.
Georgia Governor’s Office of Highway Safety