Fourth of July Holiday: A Grim Reminder of Dangers of Drinking & Driving
CLARION CO., Pa. (EYT) – Although the 4th of July is a holiday filled with food, fireworks, and other activities with friends and family, far too often, the celebration turns tragic on our area’s roads.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the 4th of July is one of the deadliest holidays of the year due to drunk driving.
An analysis by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which used data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System, showed that between 2010 and 2014, the 4th of July had the second highest percentage of car crash deaths that were linked to alcohol.
According to data from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT), in 2018 there were 17 alcohol-related fatalities from Friday, June 29, through Sunday, July 8. This marked an increase in fatalities from 2017, when there were ten alcohol-related fatalities from Friday, June 30, through Sunday, July 9. Also, during the holiday period last year, there were eight drug-related fatalities, compared to five in 2017.
Vernon Hilyer, better known as “Brandon’s Dad” of Brandon’s Dad DUI Awareness Program, has been working to inform the local population about the dangers of drunk driving since the year after his son Brandon died in a DUI-related accident in 2008.
“The big thing is, it’s just not worth the chance,” Hilyer told exploreClarion.com.
“There’s the loss to your family if you get hurt or end up killing someone, the loss of your job in many cases, and the overall effect on your employment, once people think you have a drinking problem and won’t hire you.”
Hilyer noted that a DUI record can follow a person for a long time, affecting many aspects of their life, and that’s beyond the overall risk of injury or death or causing injury or death to other people.
“It’s not just about you, it’s about everyone around you, too,” he noted.
While his campaign focuses on urging people to plan ahead and avoid ever drinking and driving, he also noted that there are other issues at play.
According to Hilyer, he recently followed a vehicle driven by someone he suspected was driving under the influence. Though there was another vehicle between him and the vehicle in question, he noticed some troubling issues, and when the car actually drove onto a sidewalk in Clarion Borough, he called 9-1-1 to report it and continued to follow the vehicle until police arrived.
“There was a pickup truck following him, but that guy didn’t make a call. The guy he pushed off the road along Greenville didn’t make a call. People need to make that call. We need to get drunk drivers off the road before they kill someone.”
The Pennsylvania State Police are well aware of the nature of the holiday, with the increase in alcohol consumption and instances of drinking and driving surrounding it, and are reminding drivers to stay safe this week.
ExploreClarion.com also spoke with Trooper Chewning, Public Information Officer for PSP Troop C, about what people should do if they see a driver they suspect is driving under the influence.
“Call 9-1-1, and they can transfer you to whatever agency covers that area,” Trooper Chewning said.
“If you see someone that could end up causing harm to someone else, you can always call 9-1-1.”
Drunk driving is an ongoing issue throughout the nation, with one person killed in a drunk-driving crash every 48 minutes in the United States in 2017.
The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) offers the following safety steps to prevent drinking and driving among friends and family:
- Before drinking, designate a non-drinking driver when with a group;
- Don’t let your friends drive impaired;
- If you have been drinking or using drugs, get a ride home, use a rideshare service or call a taxi; and
- If you’re hosting a party where alcohol will be served, remind your guests to plan ahead and designate their sober driver; offer alcohol-free beverages, and make sure all guests leave with a sober driver.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also offers a SaferRide Mobile app, which is a simple way to call a taxi, call a friend for a ride, and to share your location so you can be picked up. The app is available for iPhone and Android phones.
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