Because the Fourth of July holiday is one of the most deadly days of the year on the nation’s roads, the Kitsap County “Target Zero” task force is stepping up police presence throughout the local region as part of the ongoing nationwide “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” enforcement crackdown to find and arrest impaired drivers who put themselves and others at risk.
“Local police will be out in force throughout this Independence Day, on the lookout for motorists and boaters who have had too much alcohol to be behind the wheel of a vehicle or a vessel,” said Chief Gary Simpson, the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office chief of patrol operations. “Law Enforcement will have zero tolerance for drivers who drink and drive this July Fourth, putting themselves and everyone else on Kitsap roads at risk.”
Participating agencies include the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office, Washington State Patrol, and the Bainbridge Island, Bremerton, Port Orchard, Poulsbo and Suquamish police departments.
The latest statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), underscore the continuing toll drunk driving imposes on the country. Impaired-driving crashes killed 9,878 people in 2011, accounting for 31 percent of the total traffic fatalities (31,865) in the United States. That’s an average of 81 deaths per day, with 27 being alcohol related, equaling one alcohol-impaired driving fatality every 53 minutes.
Unfortunately, the percentage of fatalities from impaired driving spike around July Fourth celebrations. According to NHTSA, 251 people were killed in motor vehicle traffic crashes during the July Fourth holiday in 2011. Of those fatalities, 38 percent were in crashes that involved at least one driver or motorcycle operator with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 grams per deciliter or higher.
Independence Day celebrations often extend well into the evening and night, and statistics illustrate conclusively the combined dangers of alcohol and night driving. In 2011, the proportion of alcohol impairment among drivers involved in fatal crashes was 4.5 times higher during hours of darkness.
While death and injury are, of course, the most serious of possible consequences of drunk driving, there are other negative considerations that can affect lives for many years, including the loss of a driver’s license, vehicle impoundment, jail time, attorney fees, restitution, court costs and insurance hikes, just to name a few.
“Don’t start celebrating without planning. Celebrate our nation’s freedoms, but think about what you are doing — be responsible. Those who choose to drink and drive this July Fourth are forewarned,” Simpson added.
By following a few simple tips, this July Fourth will be a safe one. The “Target Zero” task force recommends the following steps to have a safe and happy holiday:
• Consider not drinking.
• Plan a safe way home before the fun begins.
• Before drinking, designate a sober driver.
• Never ride with an impaired driver, speak out and get out.
• Use a taxi, call a sober friend or family member.
• If you happen to see a drunk driver on the road, don’t hesitate to call 911.
• If you know someone who is about to drive impaired, take their keys and help them make other arrangements to get to where they are going safely.
The state has a strategic plan “Target Zero” to reduce the number of fatalities and serious injuries to zero by the year 2030 through a variety of strategies, including education, engineering, emergency medical services, and enforcement.