While out on a picnic, boating on one of our beautiful rivers or lakes, camping and spending time with family and friends, and, of course, safely enjoying fireworks, many Oregonians may not realize that the Fourth of July is the deadliest holiday period of the year on Oregon roads.
That’s why this Fourth of July and through the following weekend, Oregon State Police (OSP) troopers, county deputies and city police officers will step up enforcement efforts to stop drivers before they become involved in a traffic crash or tragic highway incident. With a main focus on impaired drivers, law enforcement officers in Oregon and nationwide will again be part of the ongoing “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” enforcement crackdown to catch and arrest impaired drivers who put themselves and others at risk.
This year’s official Fourth of July holiday period starts 6:00 p.m., Tuesday, July 3, and concludes 11:59 p.m., Wednesday, July 4. Nationwide, stepped up law enforcement efforts part of Operation CARE (Combined Accident Reduction Effort) will continue through 11:59 p.m., July 8.
Recent national statistics for the 2010 Fourth of July holiday weekend show 392 people were killed in traffic crashes. Of those, 39 percent involved drivers with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or higher.
Statistics gathered by Oregon’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) over the past 25 years show nearly half of all Fourth of July holiday period traffic fatalities were in alcohol-involved crashes. Almost 300 people have died on Oregon’s roads during the Fourth of July holiday period since 1970. Last year, one person died in a fatal traffic crash in Oregon during the 78-hour holiday period. Over the last ten years during the Fourth of July holiday period, 52 people have been killed in traffic crashes in Oregon.
“Too many people die behind the wheel each year due to those who choose to drive after drinking,” said OSP Superintendent Richard Evans. “Those who try to drink and drive this Fourth of July and during the following days should be forewarned. No warnings. No excuses. If you drive impaired, you will be arrested.”
Often Fourth of July celebrations start during the day, but last well into the night – making the dangers from impaired drivers even higher at night.
“The amount of alcohol that one can consume during a day-long party or celebration can drastically impair motor skills needed to drive safely,” said Deschutes County Sheriff Larry Blanton, Oregon State Sheriffs’ Association (OSSA) President. “Add the fact that many others are out driving – including some who will be impaired – and that visual skills also decrease at night, you have a recipe for disaster.”
Impaired driving fatalities spike during nighttime hours. Nationally, the proportion of alcohol impairment among drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2010 was almost five times higher at night (6:00 p.m. to 5:59 a.m.) than during the day (6:00 a.m. to 5:59 p.m.) for the Fourth of July holiday period. In fact, more than 80 percent of alcohol-impaired driving fatalities took place at nighttime.
Fairview Police Chief Kenneth Johnson, President of the Oregon Association of Chiefs of Police (OACP), pointed out numerous consequences resulting from being caught driving impaired.
“Anyone caught driving under the influence will be arrested, face jail time, the loss of their driver licenses, higher insurance rates and dozens of other unanticipated expenses.
But, more serious is the risk of killing or harming others,” said Johnson.
Oregon State Police, Oregon State Sheriffs’ Association, Oregon Association of Chiefs of Police, and Oregon Department of Transportation offer the following safety reminders for holiday travel:
* Get rested before you are tested. Fatigued drivers are more frequent during holiday weekends because of increased travel and activity. Be patient and allow plenty of time to reach your destination.
* Pay attention. An inattentive driver is a growing safety concern on our roads and an increasing factor in traffic crashes.
* Know before you go: Stay up to date on road conditions by visiting TripCheck.com or calling 5-1-1.
* Even when workers are not present, all work zone speed limits still apply and fines double. Inactive work zones still have equipment, detours, and incomplete changes in the roadway so drivers need to slow down and be alert.
* Share the road. Don’t tailgate and check your mirrors and blind spots before changing lanes.
* Be on the lookout for bicyclists, pedestrians and other vulnerable users of our roads.
* Always use safety restraints and child safety seats correctly.
* Don’t drink and drive.
* MOVE OVER if you are approaching any type of emergency vehicle, tow truck or roadside assistance vehicle which is stopped on the roadside with emergency lights activated.
Everyone plays an important part in keeping our highways and city streets safe. Immediately report aggressive, dangerous, and intoxicated drivers to the Oregon State Police at 1-800-24DRUNK (1-800-243-7865) or call 9-1-1.