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Police plea: Keep festive Fourth from turning fatal

The Fourth of July is a popular holiday for many Oregonians and others around our country. Families and friends travel  locally and long distances to gather and celebrate our nation's birthday with parades, parties, and fireworks.

The Oregon State Police, Oregon Department of Transportation and law enforcement partners statewide urge all travelers during the Fourth of July weekend to keep the holiday from quickly going from festive to fatal on our roads.

This year's Fourth of July holiday 78-hour period starts 6:00 p.m., Thursday, July 3, and concludes 11:59 p.m., Sunday, July 6. Last year in Oregon, four people died in 4 separate traffic crashes during the 102-hour Fourth of July holiday period. One fatal crash involved a motorcyclist, another was pedestrian-involved, and in both of the passenger vehicle-involved crashes the victim was not using safety restraints. Three of the 4 fatal traffic crashes were alcohol-involved.

"Holidays are a time for celebration, but they often lead to increased traffic and public safety issues for law enforcement on Oregon's highways. The Fourth of July is no exception," said Captain David Anderson, director of the OSP Patrol Services Division. "Our goal is to keep the holiday from quickly turning tragic through targeted enforcement of drivers who put lives in danger. Each of you can help by making safe driving choices, using appropriate safety restraints, and driving sober."

Oregon law enforcement agencies are joining others nationwide as part of the ongoing "Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over" crackdown with stepped up enforcement efforts to stop impaired drivers before they cause a tragic highway incident. The campaign means zero tolerance for drunk driving and no excuses for those who do so.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), almost half of all crashes (44%) with fatalities during the 2012 July Fourth holiday weekend involved a driver with a blood alcohol content (BAC) level above .08 percent. Between 2008 and 2012, 765 people lost their lives in crashes involving drivers with a BAC of .08 or more.

Alcohol-involved fatal traffic crash rates during the Fourth of July holiday period in Oregon are similar to national percentages. Over the past 25 years, nearly half of Oregon's fatalities occurred in alcohol-involved crashes. More than 300 people have died since 1970, of which sixty-one deaths have happened between 2000 and 2013.

Anticipated warmer weather, coupled with Fourth of July celebrations, often extends celebrations and gatherings well into the evening and night. According to NHTSA, statistics reflect the combined dangers of alcohol and night driving. During the 2012 Fourth of July holiday period, 59 percent of drivers involved in fatal crashes between 9:00 p.m. and midnight were drunk.

OSP, Oregon State Sheriffs' Association (OSSA), and Oregon Association Chiefs of Police (OACP) remind everyone that while death and injury are of course the most serious of possible consequences of drunk driving, there are other consequences that can affect lives for many years, including loss of a driver license, vehicle impoundment, jail time, lawyer and court costs, and insurance hikes, just to name a few.

OSP, OSSA, OACP, and ODOT offer the following safety reminders to help keep your holiday travels safe:

* Get rested before you are tested. Fatigued drivers are more frequent during holiday weekends because of increased travel and activity. Be patient and allow plenty of time to reach your destination.
* Pay attention. An inattentive driver is a growing safety concern on our roads and an increasing factor in traffic crashes.
* Know before you go: Stay up to date on road conditions by visiting or calling 5-1-1. Don't use your cell phone to check on this non-emergency information while driving.
* Even when workers are not present, all work zone speed limits still apply and fines double. Inactive work zones still have equipment, detours, and incomplete changes in the roadway so drivers need to slow down and be alert.
* Share the road. Don't tailgate and be sure to check your mirrors and blind spots before changing lanes.
* Be on the lookout for bicyclists, pedestrians and other vulnerable users of our roads.
* Always use safety restraints and child safety seats correctly (see for free safety seat clinics and proper buckling tips).
* Don't drink and drive; don't be impaired and drive. These can be deadly combinations.
* MOVE OVER if you are approaching any type of emergency vehicle, tow truck or roadside assistance vehicle which is stopped on the roadside with emergency lights activated.

OSP, OSSA, OACP and ODOT remind every traveling person - bicyclists, pedestrians, motorcyclists and motorists alike - that we all have individual responsibility for keeping our roads safe. Immediately report aggressive, dangerous and intoxicated drivers to 9-1-1 or call OSP at 1-800-24DRUNK (800-243-7865

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