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Claudann Jones

Each year, Independence Day explodes with festive fireworks, tasty backyard barbecues and American pride. Unfortunately, the merrymaking can create dangerous road conditions, as some drivers hit the streets after drinking alcoholic beverages. This Independence Day, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, Smith County AgriLife Office and the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration want to remind drivers that “buzzed driving is drunk driving.” If you are under the influence of any substance and you choose to get behind the wheel of a vehicle, you put everyone in danger, including yourself. During the holiday, make sure you plan for a safe week of festivities.

During the 2017 Fourth of July holiday period, 237 people were killed in crashes involving at least one driver or motorcycle operator with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or higher. These deaths accounted for 39 percent of the total motor vehicle traffic crashes that occurred over the holiday period. The deaths also represent a 23% increase from 2016, during which 192 people were killed during the same holiday period. That’s 237 families who will forever remember Independence Day with a heavy heart and nightmarish memories.

According to NHTSA, drunk driving accounted for 29 percent (10,874) of motor vehicle traffic crash-induced deaths in 2017. With Fourth of July festivities wrapping up in the evening or late at night, more cars will be on the roads. The rate of alcohol impairment among drivers involved in fatal crashes is higher at night. During the 2017 Fourth of July holiday period, of the 237 people who died in alcohol-impaired motor vehicle traffic crashes, 79 percent (187) of the alcohol-impaired fatalities occurred during nighttime hours.

This Fourth of July, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension’s Watch UR BAC program, and NHTSA urge drivers to designate a sober driver before heading out for the evening. If you plan on drinking, plan how you will get around without driving.

Remember these tips for a safe night on the roads:

• Remember that it is never OK to drink and drive. Even if you’ve had only one alcoholic beverage, designate a sober driver or plan to use public transportation or a ride service to get home safely.

• Download NHTSA’s SaferRide mobile app, available on Google Play for Android devices and Apple’s iTunes Store for iOS devices. SaferRide allows users to call a taxi or a predetermined friend and identifies the user’s location so he or she can be picked up.

• Use your community’s sober ride programs City Cab, Tyler Transit, Uber and Lyft.

• If you see a drunk driver on the road, contact law enforcement.

• Have 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 driver’s license. You could face jail time, higher insurance rates and hefty expenses from attorney’s fees, fines, car towing and repairs and lost time at work. Imagine trying to explain that to your family, friends or employer.

For more information on impaired driving, visit www.trafficsafetymarketing.gov.

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