Labor Day weekend represents the final countdown of the summer season and it should be a time of fun and leisure but when drinking and driving are added to these festivities, fun in the sun can quickly turn to tragedy.
As we head into Labor Day, we need to remember that August is one of the deadliest months for traffic fatalities and that Labor Day weekend is one of Washingtons deadliest holidays, averaging more than eight deaths each year. Traffic fatalities can be avoided if people make smart choices when it comes to drinking and driving.
Most people are not aware of just how little alcohol it takes to impair their driving abilities. By .05 blood alcohol concentration (BAC), the majority of drivers are significantly impaired, prior to being classified legally drunk in the state of Washington. Though Washington law states that any driver with a BAC of at least .08 is Driving Under the Influence (DUI), drivers can and will be arrested with a BAC lower than .08 if they show signs of impairment.
Drinking and driving is a crime and will not be tolerated.
As of July 1, 2007, some people arrested for DUI could face felony charges if they have four previous DUI offenses within a 10 year period. The maximum penalty in these cases is five years in prison and/or a $10,000 fine. The penalty for a first time offender is not a walk in the park, either. License suspension, ignition interlock, jail time or electronic home monitoring are just some of the consequences of a DUI conviction, as well as court ordered alcohol and drug treatment, fines and fees to $5000 and doubled insurance rates.
However, the most devastating result of a DUI does not involve jail time or money. If you hurt or kill someone because of a choice to drive under the influence, no amount of money can take away the pain from loved ones or your own conscience.
One of our goals is to add no new victim names to the Snohomish County DUI memorial wall at McCullom Park. So this Labor Day weekend, make wise choices when it comes to drinking and driving. Some tips to stay safe during these final summer parties and throughout the year are:
Always designate a sober driver. Sober means no alcohol. Remember it only takes a small amount of alcohol to begin impairing driving abilities.
Have plenty of non-alcoholic beverages on hand at parties and make virgin versions of cocktails for designated drivers.
Honor designated drivers at gatherings. Allow them to eat first or give them a small thank you gift.
If you will be attending the Monroe Fair Aug. 23 through Labor Day, stop by the Traffic Safety booth hosted by the Snohomish County DUI and Traffic Safety Task Force and PACE (Pro Active Criminal Enforcement) to learn more.
Stay safe during the countdown to the end of summer and remember that any amount of alcohol can begin to impair your driving. Always drive sober or designate a sober driver if you are going out. Drinking and driving is a choice; being the victim of a drunk driver is not. Make the right choice and drive sober because this summer if you Drive Hammered, you will Get Nailed.
Conrad Thompson, Chair Snohomish County DUI and Traffic Safety Task Force.
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