FLORHAM PARK, NJ -- As Americans ready for Independence Day weekend road trips and holiday celebrations, AAA and the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety (AAAFTS) caution travelers to be extra cautious on the road, particularly on July 4-the deadliest day of the year. According to recent analysis of national crash data by the AAAFTS, between 2000-2009, more people lost their lives in motor vehicle crashes on July 4 than on any other day of the year.

Motor vehicle fatalities remain the leading cause of death for all people age one - 34 and many of these deaths involve drivers impaired by alcohol. In fact, the data also indicates that Independence Day is the second deadliest day for drunk driving deaths, just behind New Year’s Day. Between 2000 and 2009, an average of 40% of traffic fatalities on July 4 involved a driver with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) over the legal limit (.08 or higher), according to analysis of National Highway Traffic Safety Administration fatal crash data done by the AAAFTS.

“Drunk drivers put everyone on the road in danger and these numbers are a frightening reminder of how easily a holiday celebration can turn to tragedy,” said AAAFTS President and CEO Peter Kissinger. “Drive safe and sober this Fourth of July weekend to help ensure the only red, white and blue lights filling the sky are from fireworks, not emergency vehicles.”

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AAAFTS urges motorists everywhere to visit TakeThePledge.AAA.com to sign a quick online pledge to drive only while drug- and alcohol-free this holiday season and all year long. Once you’ve taken the free pledge, you can share it via Facebook and Twitter, or even send personalized E-cards to encourage others to do the same.

“As millions of people prepare to celebrate with family and friends this weekend, we need to remember what’s just fundamental-nobody should drink and drive,” said Cathleen Lewis, director of public affairs for the Florham Park-based AAA New Jersey Automobile Club. “For the safety of all road users, think first before you drink. And be sure you have a safe way home before you take that first drink.”

Every alcohol-related fatality is preventable and social disapproval of drunk driving is almost universal. But a national survey conducted by the AAAFTS in 2010 found that one in 10 (10 percent) drivers reported having driven when they thought their BAC “might have been close to or possibly over the legal limit” in the past year and just over half of those drivers (5.5 percent of all drivers) reported having done so more than once during that time. With an average of one drunk driving death occurring every 45 minutes, there has never been a more critical time to address this issue.

“Drinking and driving is viewed as a very serious threat and the social stigma is felt strongly. Yet, there is still a segment of the population who engage in this dangerous driving behavior. We all need to do our part to keep our roads safe, by pledging to drive drug- and alcohol-free,” added Kissinger.

The survey findings reported here were part of the AAAFTS’ third annual Traffic Safety Culture Index, a nationally representative survey conducted by Abt SRBI Inc. The Traffic Safety Culture Index was a telephone survey of 2,000 U.S. residents ages 16 and older conducted from May 11, 2010 through June 7, 2010. The statistics on fatal crashes were based on the AAAFTS’ analysis of data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System from 2000 to 2009.

For more information and other materials related to drinking and driving visit AAAFoundation.org.

Established in 1947 by AAA, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety is an independent, publicly funded 501(c)(3) charitable research and educational organization.  The AAA Foundation’s mission is to prevent traffic deaths and injuries by conducting research into their causes and by educating the public about strategies to prevent crashes and reduce injuries when they do occur. Visit the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety online at AAAFoundation.org.

The AAA New Jersey Automobile Club, headquartered in Florham Park, provides automotive, travel, insurance, financial and educational services to residents of Essex, Morris and Union Counties. Visit AAA online at AAA.com.