The July Fourth holiday is one of the best parts of summer. Fireworks and food combine with friends and family as we gather to celebrate our nation’s birth. But often, those celebrations include alcohol, which, if consumed irresponsibly, can lead to serious consequences on our nation’s roads. Alcohol has proven to be a major factor in motor vehicle crashes over the July Fourth holiday weekend. In 2007, 34 percent of all drivers involved in crashes had a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or higher. In that same year, there were 200 traffic-related fatalities during the July Fourth holiday weekend. That isn’t the way anyone wants to celebrate America’s independence.
Planning a safe way home before the celebrations begin is a responsible way to take care of yourself and your family. It is a simple step that can save lives. I urge you to designate a sober driver prior to the festivities, and give that person your keys. If you realize you are impaired, use a taxi or call a sober friend or family member who can help make sure you get home safely. Your life is too important to risk.
Law enforcement officers in our community will not tolerate drunk driving this July Fourth. The Alcoa Police Department, Blount County Sheriff’s Office, Maryville Police Department and Townsend Police Department will be working together to increase patrols and saturate our roads and highways to keep us safe. You can help keep our roads safe as well. If you happen to see a drunk driver on the road, do not hesitate to contact your local law enforcement agency. By working together, we can ensure Blount County is safe during this year’s celebrations.
Parents who host holiday parties for their children also bear responsibility. A new social host law went into effect in Tennessee yesterday, July 1. Providing alcohol to anyone under 21 is now a Class A misdemeanor with jail time of 11 months and 29 days for those convicted.
Remember that whether you’ve had way too many or just one too many, it is not worth the risk. Buzzed driving is drunk driving and has serious consequences. The tragedies and costs from drinking and driving impaired don’t end with potential death, disfigurement, disability and injury. People who break the law face jail time, the loss of their driver’s license, higher insurance rates and dozens of other unanticipated expenses.
Don’t let your Fourth of July celebrations end with an arrest - or even worse, death. Make smart choices, and plan ahead now so you can have a safe way home. Driving impaired or riding with someone who is impaired is not worth the risk. Your family wants to be able to enjoy many more celebrations with you in the years to come.
For more information about steps you can take to make sure your July Fourth celebrations are safe, visit www.StopImpairedDriving.org.
Judy Clabough is the community outreach coordinator with the Blount Memorial Foundation and Community Outreach. She coordinates all teams of the county’s Community Health Initiative, which includes the Substance Abuse Prevention Action Team.