Keep the Party off the Road

When members of the Congress approved the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, they knew that sacrifice, bloodshed, and loss of life would follow, as our fledgling nation sought to make the document’s revered language a political reality. To this day, Americans – and none more so than the members of our military and their families – continue to make sacrifices to safeguard the freedom and independence that we have cherished for more than two centuries, and that we celebrate every Independence Day.

What Samuel Adams, John Hancock, Benjamin Franklin, and the 53 other signers of the Declaration of Independence could not foresee, of course, is that more than 230 years after the ink had dried on their signatures, more Americans would die each July 4th in traffic crashes involving alcohol than signed the Declaration. On July 4, 2006, we lost 65 people due to crashes in which a driver or pedestrian had alcohol in their system. On July 4, 2007, we lost another 84 people this way, and another 80 in 2008, 90 in 2009, and 62 in 2010.

When countless Americans have made and continue to make the ultimate sacrifice in service of the creation and preservation of our country, why do we seem to accept that each year additional fatalities will result from the celebration of it? Our 2011 Traffic Safety Culture Index found that while 97 percent of Americans view drinking and driving to be “somewhat” or “completely” unacceptable, one-in-seven admit to doing so at least once in the past year.

If all of us do our part, crashes due to impaired driving are highly preventable. If possible, leave the car at home and walk or take public transportation to the festivities. If driving is necessary, designate a sober driver or plan to spend the night. If all else fails and you find yourself stuck at the end of the evening with a car you can’t drive home safely, find out if your local AAA Club is offering a free towing service for the holiday, or call a cab and get the car in the morning. And, since you can’t control the actions of other drivers on the road, protect yourself by always buckling up and remaining alert and attentive behind the wheel.

I know it may not seem like much, but one of the best ways we can honor the sacrifice of our nation’s heroes is to make responsible choices that safeguard the people and communities they have fought and died for. Let’s look out for our fellow Americans this July 4th, and every day, so that we can continue to celebrate together for many years to come.