Ah, the Fourth of July will be fun. Of course, there will be fireworks and barbecues and family gatherings. Independence Day is, pretty much, now a reason for people to party. And as we all know, party means drink. We love our booze. Rest assured, there will be no shortage of people tipping back beer and hard liquor, starting today and continuing until the final sparklers have burned up.
Now, some people know their limits. Too many others don’t. Unfortunately, there will be people who drink and drive. And that’s dangerous not just for them, but for everyone else on the road.
Before you declare you would never drink too much and drive, before you insist most people can drink a little bit and are just fine behind the wheel and the hard core drinkers are the problem, and before you say you don’t want to hear yet another lecture about drinking and driving and just want to have fun, consider these sobering statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:
w During 2011-2015, there were nine fatalities on Hawaii’s roadways over the Fourth of July holiday, and seven of the nine fatalities were alcohol-and-drug related.
w From 2010 to 2014 in the U.S., there were 752 people killed in drunk-driving crashes over the Fourth of July holiday periods.
w Over half (58 percent) of the young drivers (18 to 34 years old) killed in motor vehicle traffic crashes were alcohol-impaired (BAC of .08 g/dL or higher) during the 2014 Fourth of July period.
w The rate of alcohol impairment among drivers involved in fatal crashes during the 2014 July Fourth period was over three times higher at night than it was during the day.
w It is illegal to drive with a BAC of .08 g/dL or higher in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Yet, of the 164 people killed in drunken driving crashes during the 2014 July Fourth period, 113 people died in crashes involving at least one driver or motorcycle operator with a BAC of .15 or higher — almost twice the set limit.
So let’s stop trotting out the argument that the majority of people who drink and drive are responsible. Let’s not defend drinking and driving by saying someone operating a vehicle while they’re at the current legal limit of 0.08 BAC isn’t any more impaired than someone yakking on their cell phone.
Instead, how about this idea? The person planning to drive home after their Fourth of July weekend parties doesn’t drink? Or how about the person planning to drink makes damn sure they won’t be driving after they’ve had their fun?
Sounds crazy, to suggest someone simply not drink if they’re going to drive. Why, that’s almost unAmerican, especially around Independence Day celebrations. This is a country that must mix fireworks and booze on the Fourth of July. It’s amazing, but not surprising, how insistent some people are that they can drink and drive and will be just fine — even if it means endangers others on the road. It’s estimated there are some 15 million alcoholics in the U.S. and most of them have access to car keys.
Be warned, the Kauai Police Department will be increasing enforcement efforts across the island, checking for those driving under the influence of intoxicants and other traffic violations.
We normally object to drivers being stopped by police for no reason other than to ask to see driver’s license, insurance and registration, and ask if you’ve been drinking. Those random sobriety checkpoints belong more in a police state than a free one. But if drivers knew in advance they would have to pass through such a sobriety checkpoint on their way home from red, white and blue celebration, you can bet they will be far less inclined to do any drinking. And you know what else they might find? They can have a great time on the Fourth of July without going through a 12-pack.
In case you were wondering, the average DUI costs $10,000, making it difficult to recover financially. Arrested drunk drivers face jail time, the loss of their driver licenses, higher insurance rates, and dozens of other hefty expenses, from car towing and repairs to attorney fees, fines, court costs, lost time at work, and more.
But here’s the good thing about America. It’s your choice. You decide whether it’s worth it.