Labor Day is summer’s last hurrah, and authorities will be working all weekend at DUI checkpoints around the country to stop unsafe drivers. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the National Safety Council calculates that about 400 drivers in the U.S. will be killed in traffic collisions during the three-day weekend — 40 percent of them by drunk drivers. Labor Day ranks behind only July 4, Memorial Day and Thanksgiving for deadly traffic crashes. Some 35 million drivers are expected to surge onto the nation’s roadways for trips of over 50 miles this Labor Day weekend — and that doesn’t count drivers making shorter trips, reported the American Automobile Association. California has more than 38 million people, so imagine most of the state hitting the highway. “While many people will spend the long weekend celebrating with their friends and family, the law enforcement community will be on patrol, working to keep the highways hazard-free,” said California Highway Patrol Commissioner Joe Farrow. “Our main goal through this high-visibility enforcement effort is to prevent tragedies.” On Labor Day weekend last year, 1,200 drivers were arrested in California for DUI while 49 people were killed in collisions, according to the CHP, entrusted with road safety for the nation’s most populous state. Along with the dangers of impaired driving is impaired judgment: 70 percent of those who died in California Labor Day collisions were not wearing seatbelts. This year, about 150 people will be killed in the U.S. by drunk drivers over the Labor Day holiday weekend, the National Safety Council says. Tens of thousands more will be seriously injured in crashes caused by drunk drivers.
Rewards for Sober Drivers
You can avoid this fate by staying off roadways, or at minimum designating a sober driver. (Follow our safety tips below). And you can reward your designated driver. Compliments of the California Office of Traffic Safety, a free Web-based mobile app, DDVIP Bar-Finder, uses your location to find participating restaurants and businesses offering free goodies for motorists forgoing alcohol. Meanwhile, a coast-to-coast campaign by law enforcement is poised or underway. Hundreds of DUI checkpoints seeking unsafe drivers will be staged between 6 p.m. Friday and 11:59 p.m. Monday in most states. In cities such as Sacramento, Calif., the patrols started more than a week ago. According to the Sacramento Bee, 17 county law enforcement departments there arrested 147 motorists for driving drunk or drugged from Aug. 15 through Aug. 22; that number is down from last year’s 188 arrests in the same stretch, but more DUI weekend checkpoints are planned. The extensive labor is with grim reason. “Over the holiday weekend … another 38,800 medically consulted injuries will be sustained from motor vehicle collisions,” the National Safety Council says. “For the past six years, the Labor Day weekend has averaged 14.6 percent more traffic fatalities than similar non-holiday periods.”
Counting the Carnage
The NSC also estimates 142 people will survive the holiday weekend because they will have worn safety belts, while another 102 lives would have been saved had those people worn safety belts. To avoid being among the 300,000 DUI incidents that occur daily in the U.S., here are some NSC tips:
- If you are drinking, do not drive.
- If you plan to drink, before you start assign a non-drinking driver or plan safe transportation such as a cab.
- Know that young drivers are at greater risk for alcohol-related crashes; strictly enforce a zero-tolerance policy with alcohol. Drinking in every state is illegal before age 21.
- Your best defense against a drunk driver is wearing your seatbelt and being a defensive driver.
There are a number of other dangers to Labor Day weekend motorists besides impaired driving, the NSC stated. Follow these additional tips to stay safe:
- Establish and enforce a driver’s distraction-free zone, especially in cars equipped with electronic devices including cell phones, video games and global positioning systems.
- Make sure all passengers are buckled up and children are in age-appropriate safety seats.
- Allow plenty of travel time to avoid frustration and diminish the impulse to speed.
- Drive defensively and exercise caution, especially during inclement weather.
And the CHP urges the public to immediately report automobiles that are weaving or otherwise presenting a hazard: “If you see a suspected drunk driver, call 911. Be prepared to assist the dispatcher by giving a description of the vehicle, the license plate number, location and direction of travel. Before you call, be aware of your surroundings, especially streets, highways, directions, city or nearest town within which you are calling. That phone call may help save someone’s life.”