Officials urge safe driving on holiday

PARKERSBURG – The Mid-Ohio Valley’s law enforcement agencies will be stepping up police presence throughout the region for the July 4 holiday as part of the ongoing “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” enforcement crackdown.

“Local police will be out in force throughout this Independence Day, on the lookout for motorists who have had too much alcohol to be behind the wheel of a vehicle,” said Toni Tiano with the Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Highway Safety Program. “Police will have zero tolerance for alcohol scofflaws who drink and drive this July 4th, putting themselves and everyone else on the roads at risk.”

The latest statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration underscore the continuing toll drunken driving takes. Impaired-driving crashes killed 9,878 people in 2011, accounting for 31 percent of the total traffic fatalities in the United States, that’s an average of one alcohol-impaired-driving fatality every 53 minutes.

The percentage of fatalities from impaired driving spikes around the Fourth of July.

According to NHTSA, 251 people were killed in motor vehicle traffic crashes during the 2011 July 4 holiday. Of those fatalities, 38 percent were in crashes involving at least one driver or motorcycle operator with a blood alcohol concentration of .08, which is the legal intoxication limit in all 50 states.

During the July 4 holiday, from 2007-2011, 780 people lost their lives in crashes involving drivers who had BACs of .08 or higher. These fatalities accounted for 40 percent of all highway deaths over the five-year period. Over this same period, statistics also showed 511 people died in crashes involving drivers who had BACs of .15 percent or more.

During the July 4 holiday period in 2011, more than half of younger drivers (18-34) killed in alcohol-related crashses were legally considered drunk.

“Those who try to drink and drive this Fourth of July should be forewarned. No warnings. No excuses. If you drive impaired, you will be arrested,” Tiano said.