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How not to spend the Fourth of July in jail

July 2, 2018

An officer placing a man in the back of a squad car

Are you excited for the Fourth of July? All those great American traditions: grilling in the great outdoors, relaxing with friends and family, watching gorgeous fireworks displays together after dark. But you know what’s not a great American tradition? Getting arrested – or, worse, injuring or killing someone – because you chose to drive drunk.

Unfortunately, the numbers tell us that plenty of people in Minnesota drive under the influence of alcohol on the Fourth. In fact, our independence day has the dubious honor of having the most DWI arrests per hour of any major holiday over the past five years, at 3.9. That’s more DWI arrests per hour than St. Patrick’s Day and even more than New Year’s Day. On average, 471 drivers are arrested on the Fourth and the days surrounding it every year.

Fortunately, the overall trend of drinking and driving is going down. In 2017, there were 24,862 DWI arrests, compared to 35,864 in 2008. That’s a 31 percent decrease over the last 10 years. Deaths from drunk-driving related crashes are down, too: a 24 percent decline from 2012 (95 deaths) to 2017 (72 deaths).

But even one death or injury due to drunk driving is too many, so it’s important to keep this trend going, on the Fourth of July and every day. You can do that by planning for a safe ride this Fourth of July, or any time you’re out having a good time. Notice that said “planning” – as in, ahead of time. When the moment comes, you’ll be less inclined to want to deal with it, and it may seem easier to just grab your keys and get behind the wheel. But if you’ve already laid plans, it won’t be such a big deal. So ask a friend to be a designated driver, line up a cab, have the bus schedule handy, or arrange to stay overnight at the party.

If you’d rather, you can offer to be the designated driver. Your friends will love you for getting them home safely! And although you can’t control what other drivers do, you can make sure everyone in your car buckles up. It’s the best defense against a drunk driver or any kind of crash.

And don’t forget to report drunk driving. If you see an impaired driver behind the wheel, call 911. Be prepared to give the location and license plate number, along with the behavior you observed.

So this Fourth of July, add another to your list of great American traditions: Bring the apple pie. Light a sparkler. And line up a sober ride.