By JoAnn Hellmann
Memorial Day weekend to the end of the Labor Day weekend — roughly 100 days — is found to be the most dangerous stretch of time on our nation’s roads.
Long summer days and warm weather mean more folks on the road enjoying graduations, picnics, parties, road trips and vacations. But those good times can come to a crashing end with one bad decision: to drink and drive.
While about 80 percent of DUIs involve alcohol, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports drugs other than alcohol (e.g., marijuana and cocaine) are involved in the remaining percentage of motor vehicle driver deaths. These other drugs are often used in combination with alcohol.
Impaired driving is one of America’s deadliest problems. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration states in 2011, 9,878 people were killed and approximately 350,000 were injured. Each crash, each death, each injury impacts not only the person in the crash, but family, friends, classmates, coworkers, emergency personnel and others.
Even those who have not been directly touched help pay the $132 billion yearly price tag of driving under the influence.
According to the Washington Traffic Safety Commission, during the 100 deadly days of 2007 to 2012, nearly half of the 959 traffic fatalities in our state were caused by alcohol or other drug impairment.
This year the Impaired Driving Impact Panel of Island County, IDIPIC, hopes to raise both awareness and funds during this dangerous season with KISS – Keep It a Safe Summer. The safety campaign kicks off with a volunteer appreciation luncheon and silent auction in late May, followed by a series of educational events and fundraisers by IDIPIC during the summer. All monies raised will benefit IDIPIC’s DUI and underage drinking prevention work in local schools and aboard Whidbey Island Naval Air Station.
IDIPIC also presents civilian and military DUI/Underage Drinking prevention panels each month.
Since it began in 2000 IDIPIC has provided over 360 impact panels reaching over 25,000 attendees with 40 of those panels at NASWI reaching over 12,500 personnel.
The nonprofit has also participated in a number of annual base safety fairs through the years.
These deadly summer days are also when more youth are killed on our roads. Traffic safety experts attribute the higher crash rates for youth to more young people actively driving on the roadways, with more opportunities to drive at night when road risks are higher.
While many crashes during the summer are purely accidental, many are the result of unsafe practices such as driving under the influence.
As families get ready to kick off the summer and honor our military heroes this Memorial Day weekend, IDIPIC urges motorists to stay safe on the road during the 100 deadly days.
Tips for safe driving:
n Plan a safe way home. Use a taxi or a designated driver who has had NO alcohol or impairing drugs.
n Don’t drive at night unless you must. More than half of nighttime crashes occur between 9 p.m. and midnight.
n Wear a seatbelt. Seatbelt usage is one of the best ways to stay safe on our roadways.
n Slow down. Respect all posted speed limits.
n Be aware. Pay attention to other drivers, avoid those driving erratically and report any unsafe driving.
You can also help others to not drive under the influence by being a responsible host. Offer non-alcohol alternatives, don’t let guests make their own drinks, stop serving alcohol at least an hour before the party ends and ensure your guests are safe to drive home.
Contact IDIPIC at 360-672-8219 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
JoAnn Hellmann serves as director for IDIPIC.