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Each year, Americans mark the end of summer with the Labor Day holiday weekend.  Sadly, the Labor Day holiday has also become one of the deadliest, with drunk drivers endangering themselves and others on their way home from holiday festivities.

The Sarasota Police Department is partnering with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to get drunk drivers off the roads and help save lives.  A high-visibility national enforcement campaign, Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over, runs from August 15 through September 3, 2018.  During this time, Sarasota Police officers will show zero tolerance for drunk driving.  Increased messages about the dangers of driving impaired, coupled with enforcement and increased officers on the road, aim to drastically reduce drunk driving on our nation’s roadways.

According to NHTSA, 10,497 people were killed in drunk-driving crashes in 2016.  On average, 10,000 people were killed each year from 2012 to 2016—one person killed every 50 minutes in 2016.  This is why the Sarasota Police Department is working with NHTSA to remind drivers that drunk driving is not only illegal, it is a matter of life and death. As you head out to Labor Day festivities, remember: Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over.

Drunk driving isn’t the only risk on the road: Drug-impaired driving is also an increasing problem on our nation’s roads.  If drivers are impaired by any substance—alcohol or drugs—they should not get behind the wheel of a vehicle.  Driving while impaired is illegal, period.  The bottom line is this: If You Feel Different, You Drive Different. Drive High, Get a DUI. It’s that simple.

Over the 2016 Labor Day holiday period (6 p.m. September 2 – 5:59 a.m. September 6), there were 433 crash fatalities nationwide.  Of the fatal crashes, more than one-third (36%) involved drivers who were drunk (.08+ blood alcohol concentration [BAC]), and one-fourth (25%) involved drivers who were driving with a BAC almost twice the legal limit (.15+ BAC).  Age is a particularly risky factor: Among the drivers between the ages of 18 and 34 who were killed in crashes over the Labor Day holiday period in 2016, 47 percent of those fatalities involved drunk drivers with BACs of .08 or higher.

“We need our community to understand: It’s up to them to make the smart decision to drive sober—Labor Day, and every day,” said Traffic Unit Officer Tim Bales, Sarasota Police Department.  “Drunk driving is a huge problem in our country, and the numbers are rising, little by little.  This isn’t about a ticketing campaign.  This is about a campaign to get the message out that drunk driving is illegal and it takes lives.  Help us put an end to this senseless behavior,” Officer Bales said.  “The trend for the Labor Day holiday is in a positive direction, but our goal is to have zero fatalities, always.”

The Sarasota Police Department and NHTSA are reminding citizens of the many resources available to get them home safely.  There are safe alternatives to drinking and driving:

·      It is never okay to drink and drive.  Even if you’ve had only one alcoholic beverage, designate a sober driver or plan to use public transportation or a ride sharing service to get home safely.

·         Download NHTSA’s SaferRide mobile app, available on Google Play for Android devices: (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.nhtsa.SaferRide&hl=en), and Apple’s iTunes Store for iOS devices: (https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/saferride/id950774008?mt=8). SaferRide allows users to call a taxi or a predetermined friend, and identifies the user’s location so he or she can be picked up.

·         If you see a drunk driver on the road, call 911 or your local law enforcement agency immediately.

·         Have a friend who is about to drink and drive? Take the keys away and make arrangements to get your friend home safely.

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