Despite a zero-death Independence Day last year, the 19 road deaths on the holiday during the last five years make July 4 the state’s deadliest day of the year on the road, according to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) Office of Traffic Safety.
A major factor for the deaths was drunk driving, which accounted for 13 of the holiday’s deaths (65 percent), a rate which far eclipses Minnesota’s annual percentage of deaths as a result of drunk driving, historically around 30 percent.
Added DWI patrols will be on the roads during the holiday period in the Twin Cities area.
“Independence Day delivers a potentially tragic scenario on the road with nice weather, more celebrations and added traffic volume,” says Donna Berger, director of the DPS Office of Traffic Safety. “It’s up to each of us to make smart decisions behind the wheel and that includes planning ahead to lock in a sober ride.”
Midway through the year, there have been 154 traffic deaths, up from 145 at this time in 2012.
Minnesota’s Deadliest Days, 2008–2012
Other deadliest days in Minnesota include: April 25, May 22 and July 10 (15 deaths each); May 30 (14); and June 17, July 13, Aug. 29 (13 each).
Independence Day Travel Period, 2008–2012
The travel period surrounding the Fourth of July is historically deadly. There were 29 deaths during the official holiday travel period of which 19 were drunk-driving related.
DPS officials are stressing that motorists buckle up, drive at safe speeds, pay attention, be patient, drive well-rested and plan ahead for a sober ride.
A DWI offense can result in loss of license for up to a year, thousands in costs and possible jail time.
Repeat DWI offenders, as well as first-time offenders arrested at 0.16 and above alcohol-concentration level, must use ignition interlock in order to regain legal driving privileges, or face at least one year without a driver’s license. Offenders with three or more offenses are required to use interlock for three to six years, or they will never regain driving privileges.
Tips to Prevent Drunk Driving
· Plan for a safe ride — designate a sober driver, use a cab/public transportation or stay at the location of the celebration.
· Offer to be a designated driver, or be available to pick up a loved one anytime, anywhere.
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· Buckle up — the best defense against a drunk driver.
· Report drunk driving — call 911 when witnessing impaired driving behavior. Be prepared to provide location, license plate number and observed dangerous behavior.
About the Minnesota Department Public Safety
The Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) comprises 11 divisions where 2,100 employees operate programs in the areas of law enforcement, crime victim assistance, traffic safety, alcohol and gambling, emergency communications, fire safety, pipeline safety, driver licensing, vehicle registration and emergency management. DPS activity is anchored by three core principles: education, enforcement and prevention.
About the Office of Traffic Safety
The Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) designs, implements and coordinates federally funded traffic safety enforcement and education programs to improve driver behaviors and reduce the deaths and serious injuries that occur on Minnesota roads. OTS also administers state funds for the motorcycle safety program and for the child seats for needy families program.
OTS is an anchoring partner of the state’s Toward Zero Deaths (TZD) traffic safety initiative. A primary vision of the TZD program is to create a safe driving culture in Minnesota in which motorists support a goal of zero road fatalities by practicing and promoting safe and smart driving behavior. TZD focuses on the application of four strategic areas to reduce crashes — education, enforcement, engineering and emergency trauma response.