SACRAMENTO, Calif., Aug. 15, 2014 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Labor Day weekend marks the unofficial end of summer and unfortunately, the holiday also typically indicates a sharp increase in drunk driving related fatalities. As a result, a statewide crackdown on drunk and drugged driving will run now through Labor Day, Monday, Sept. 1. The national Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over effort will pair increased public awareness with high-visibility enforcement, and anyone caught driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs will be arrested. The California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) is reminding motorists to plan ahead by designating a sober driver.
"We must all do our part to reduce drunk or drugged driving," said OTS Director Rhonda Craft. "Although we're making steady progress to spread awareness about this issue, tragically, too many people are still choosing to get behind the wheel while impaired. The Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign serves as a reminder to drivers to take personal responsibility and jumpstart good driving behaviors. This can save lives not only now but throughout the year."
In 2012, 10,322 people were killed in drunk-driving crashes in the United States, including over 800 here in California. Over Labor Day weekend that year, 147 lost their lives as a result of a drunk driver, accounting for more than one-third (38 percent) of all traffic fatalities during that same period. Out of all the crash fatalities that weekend, one in four were attributed to drivers with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of .15 or higher – almost twice the legal limit.
"There is no excuse for driving while impaired," said Craft. "Take the initiative to plan ahead and designate a sober driver before attending any events where alcohol will be served. Planning a sober ride home, whether it's via a friend or a transportation service, will ensure that you get home safely – and alive. Another important tip to keep in mind is that if you see a drunk driver on the road, don't hesitate, call 9-1-1."
Someone is killed in a drunk-driving crash every 51 minutes. Over the Labor Day weekend, those fatalities increase to one every 34 minutes. Nighttime is especially dangerous. Almost half (46 percent) of the fatalities in nighttime crashes over Labor Day weekend in 2012 involved a driver with a BAC of .08 or higher, compared to 25 percent in daytime fatal crashes.
Young drivers play a significant role in drunk-driving crashes, too. Among drivers between the ages of 18 and 34 killed in motor vehicle crashes during the 2012 Labor Day weekend, almost half (48 percent) had a .08 percent BAC or higher. For drivers under 21, anything above a BAC of .00 is illegal.
Don't let a tragedy ruin your fun this month. Aside from the obvious risks of killing yourself or someone else, driving impaired can also lead to serious consequences. The average DUI can cost up to $10,000, the loss of your license and maybe your job.
OTS is offering a free mobile app aimed at rewarding sober designated drivers with perks and free or discounted offers at area bars and restaurants. Register for free at DDVIPCA.com. Also, join us on Twitter at @OTS_CA or "like" us at www.facebook.com/CaliforniaOTS and keep up with the latest traffic safety information. For more information on all OTS efforts, visit www.OTS.ca.gov.
Chris Cochran (916) 509-3063