Crime

Thinking of drinking and driving this weekend? Think again

AP

Kentucky State Police will increase patrols over the Fourth of July weekend, and for good reason.

During last year’s Fourth of July weekend, nine people were killed in Kentucky in vehicle accidents involving an intoxicated driver. In those accidents, 43 people were injured.

In all, there were 77 DUI-related crashes statewide over the Independence Day holiday weekend, which began the evening of July 2 and ended at midnight July 5.

“With July Fourth being on a Monday, we anticipate a very celebratory holiday period, and we encourage that,” said Trooper Corey King, public information officer for the Kentucky State Police in Henderson. “But don’t take it to the highways.”

So far, 2016 has seen more than its usual share of fatal traffic accidents. According to the state Office of Highway Safety, there had been 329 roadway fatalities between Jan. 1 and June 20, the last date for which data were available. By comparison, there were 302 highway fatalities during the same period last year, and 279 in the same six months in 2014.

The National Traffic Safety Administration reports that traffic deaths caused by intoxicated drivers increase during holidays. According to AAA, there are likely to be more drivers on the road between June 30 and July 4 this year because of lower gasoline prices.

King said troopers will use “saturation patrols” to cover areas that data shows have high numbers of accidents or people driving recklessly. “We use our data to (tell) our troopers where to be at certain times,” King said.

Troopers also will set up road safety checkpoints throughout the Henderson post’s region, including Daviess County. To see a complete list of planned checkpoints, go to Kentuckystatepolice.org.

The Independence Day holiday period can be a dangerous time, King said.

“The thing with July Fourth is it’s very celebratory,” King said. “A lot of people have outdoor grilling plans and parties, with alcohol. … We do know it’s important to be out there.”

People who have been drinking should either call a taxi or have a designated driver, King said.

“We obviously encourage people, if they plan to go to friends’ (homes) and celebrate, and there’s drinking involved, to have a contingency plan in place,” King said.

Erin Eggen, a spokeswoman for the Office of Highway Safety, said, “We do typically see a rise in crashes, injuries and fatalities due to impaired driving over the Fourth of July period. We’re saying: If you’re going to drink, be responsible about it. Plan for a designated driver, or stay where you are for the night.

“Hopefully, people will enjoy the holiday and be smart.”

James Mayse, 270-691-7303, jmayse@messenger-inquirer.com, Twitter: @JamesMayse

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