MADD urges motorists to drive safe and sober over holiday weekend

By Abby Morris
Star Staff
amorris@starhq.com
As summer begins to wind down and motorists take to the highways to celebrate the last official holiday of summer, some of those drivers may be creating an unsafe environment for themselves, their passengers and others on the road way.
The Mothers Against Drunk Driving organization is urging motorists to stay safe and sober behind the wheel and if a person decides to include alcohol in their Labor Day celebrations to also include a designated driver in their plans.
"MADD's Labor Day Designate a Driver campaign comes as annual traffic deaths have increased for the third year in a row and the Labor Day holiday weekend has been among the most deadly for alcohol-related traffic deaths in recent years," a released statement from MADD on the awareness program states.
Statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration show that the Labor Day weekend can be a very deadly time on America's highways for alcohol-related traffic accidents and deaths.
In 2001, the last year that data was available for fatalities over holiday periods, the NHTSA reported that a total of 482 people died as a result of traffic accidents. Of those who died during the 96-hour period, which makes up the Labor Day holiday weekend, 252 of those people died in alcohol-related accidents, accounting for more than 52 percent of the total traffic accidents. In 2000, 529 people died in traffic crashes over the Labor Day weekend. Approximately 54 percent, or 284, of those who died in crashes were alcohol-related.
"Drinking and driving don't mix," said MADD National President Wendy Hamilton. "Designating a sober driver is a labor of love this holiday weekend. Everyone can help keep the roadways and loved ones safe by making a simple decision to drive safe and sober."
Despite the fact that the number of individuals killed in alcohol-related accidents has decreased by more than 33 percent over the past few decades, the latest statistics show a recent increase over the past three years.
In 2002, more than 17,400 people were killed and more than half a million others were injured in alcohol-related crashes in which translates into 41 percent of all of the traffic fatalities which occurred in the nation. That number creates the average of one alcohol-related fatality accident every 32 minutes.
Officials at MADD Tennessee urge those celebrating the holiday to make good choices before the party begins. They recommend that people who are going out to celebrations choose a designated sober driver before leaving for the celebration.
For those who are hosting parties and plan to include alcohol in the celebration, the organization recommends that the person hosting choose a location which they do not plan to leave, make sure there are plenty of non-alcoholic beverages for everyone, have plenty of food at the party so that guests who do consume alcohol are not drinking on empty stomachs, monitor the consumption of guests at the party and stop serving alcoholic beverages at least one hour before the party ends.