PennDOT, state police to team up for July 4th DUI awareness campaign in Greensburg
Celebrating the nation’s Independence Day by drinking at a party then getting behind the wheel is not only illegal and dangerous, it can be deadly.
Nine people across Pennsylvania died over the July 4, 2017, holiday period in 94 alcohol-related crashes, a decline from 13 killed in 361 alcohol-related crashes over the same period in 2016, according to PennDOT statistics.
State police will step up DUI patrols this week, with an emphasis on the July 4 holiday, for “maximum enforcement efforts” to catch impaired drivers, said Capt. Jeffrey Fisher, commander of Troop A based in Greensburg.
The police realize the July 4 holiday is “synonymous” with drinking, Fisher said.
Fisher was among a group of state and local officials and police who gathered Monday in front of the Westmoreland County Courthouse in Greensburg to emphasize that motorists should not drive while impaired this holiday. Those participating in the ceremony placed 64 flags amid flowers and plants in front of the courthouse, representing the 64 people killed in wrecks in Westmoreland County involving impaired drivers from 2004-18.
“We could reduce our fatalities by one-third if we could eliminate impaired driving,” said Jay Ofsanik, safety press officer for PennDOT District 12, based in Uniontown.
There were 158 people killed in impaired-driver crashes from 2004-18 across District 12, which covers Westmoreland, Washington, Fayette and Greene counties, according to PennDOT statistics.
Nationwide, 237 people were killed in drunken-driving crashes during the July 4, 2017, holiday period from 6 p.m. June 30 through 6 a.m. July 5. That accounted for 39% of the traffic deaths during that time, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
For those who intend to imbibe, Ofsanik and others urged planning ahead and using a designated driver.
A new challenge is motorists who believe they can drive under the influence of medical marijuana because they are legally permitted to use it, said Craig Amos, the law enforcement liaison for the nonprofit Pennsylvania DUI Association.
Recent training for DUI task forces is focused on determining impairment for those using marijuana, said Amos, a retired state trooper.
“If you feel different, you drive different. If it impairs you, you can’t drive a car,” regardless of the substance causing the impairment — alcohol, prescription medication or illegal drugs, Amos said.
Joe Napsha is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe at 724-836-5252, [email protected] or via Twitter .