YORKTOWN, N.Y. - This Labor Day weekend, families and friends will be celebrating the end of the summer. Statistics show this festive time has also become a dangerous time for America’s roads, as many drunk drivers get behind the wheel after celebrating.
For this reason, Yorktown Police Department and the Alliance for Safe Kids (ASK), are partnering with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to stop drunk drivers and help save lives. The high-visibility national enforcement campaign, Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over, runs Aug. 19–Sept. 5. During this period, local law enforcement will show zero tolerance for drunk driving. Increased state and national messaging about the dangers of driving drunk, coupled with sobriety checkpoints and increased officers on the road, aim to drastically reduce drunk driving on our nation’s roads.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, on average, over 10,000 people died each year (2010 to 2014) in drunk-driving crashes. During the 2014 Labor Day holiday weekend (6 p.m. Aug. 29–5:59 a.m. Sept. 2), 40 percent of the fatalities in traffic crashes involved drunk drivers, which was the highest percentage over the five years 2010 to 2014. Nighttime proves to be the most dangerous time to be out on the roads: During the 2014 Labor Day holiday period, 83 percent of drunk-driving crash fatalities occurred between 6 p.m. and 5:59 a.m., as compared to half of all drunk-driving crash fatalities throughout the rest of that year.
Additionally, 40 percent of crash fatalities on Labor Day weekend in 2014 involved drunk drivers (with blood alcohol concentrations [BACs] of .08 or higher), amounting to 162 lives lost. More than a quarter (28 percent) of the crash fatalities that occurred on Labor Day weekend involved drivers with BACs of 0.15 or higher—almost twice the illegal limit.
“People need to understand that drunk driving is not only deadly, but it is illegal,” said Robert Noble, acting police chief of the Yorktown Police Department. “Drunk driving is a massive problem in the United States, with more than 10,000 people dying annually. Drivers need to pay attention to their own driving, but also to others on the road who could be driving drunk. It is your business. If you think you see a drunk driver, call us and let us know.”
Of the 9,967 people who were killed in impaired-driving crashes in 2014, 64 percent were the drunk drivers themselves. Erica Stanzione, director of communications and partnerships at ASK, said those 6,391 drunk drivers thought they would make it to their destinations, but they didn’t.
“There are people who like to pretend that certain laws don’t apply to them, but just to be clear: in every state, for every person, it is illegal to drive with a BAC of 0.08 or higher,” Stanzione said. “This is an unacceptable problem. Drunk driving is selfish and dangerous. We want to increase awareness with this campaign, but also see lasting results of decreased drunk driving.”
During the enforcement period, there will be a special emphasis on drunk-driving enforcement. Local drivers should expect to see more patrol vehicles, sobriety checkpoints, and increased messaging about the dangers of drunk driving.
“This is important to remember: do not trust yourself when you drink,” Noble said. “You may think you aren’t drunk, but law enforcement will know you are. Law enforcement officers’ skills in detecting and identifying drunk drivers have never been better. They will spot you and arrest you.”
Stanzione said many drunk-driving incidents can be avoided with simple planning.
“Designate a sober driver or call a cab,” she said. “But whatever you do, do not drink and drive.”
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has made it even easier to get home safely when you’ve been drinking, with the free SaferRide mobile app, available through the Apple Store and Google Play. The app allows people to call pre-selected contacts or a taxi, and also identifies a person's location so they can be picked up.