By Dr. T. Bella Dinh-Zarr
On Independence Day, or the Fourth of July, Americans celebrate the adoption of the Declaration of Independence. In it, we declared not only our independence, but also that we have “…certain unalienable rights, [and] that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Millions of Americans celebrate Independence Day every year, with parades, barbecues, and fireworks. But all too often we Americans squander the very rights we celebrate – and deprive others of theirs – when we choose to get behind the wheel impaired.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2013, more than 500 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes over the Fourth of July holiday (6 p.m. July 3 through 5:59 a.m. July 8). Of those fatalities, nearly 200 occurred in crashes that involved at least one driver or motorcycle operator with a BAC of .08 or higher. During that same time, the rate of alcohol impairment among drivers involved in fatal crashes was more than three times higher at night than during the day.
With liberty comes responsibility. So to help our readers safeguard their own life, liberty, and continued pursuit of happiness – and those of their fellow Americans – the NTSB offers these July 4 tips:
- “July 4sight” – plan ahead. If your celebration involves alcohol, take public transportation, designate a sober driver, or call a local cab service to get you safely home. It’s not just your life you’re putting at risk!
- “Homeland” defense – host like you mean it. If you’re hosting a celebration in your home, make sure that your friends and family are sober before getting behind the wheel. The Constitution says you don’t have to quarter soldiers in your home… but your party guests are your responsibility!
- “Liberty without Virtue [is] Folly, vice, and madness, without… ” Wear your seatbelt – it’s your single greatest defense against death and injury in the event of a crash. And ensure that everyone in your car is buckled up. Keep your children safe; make sure they are properly restrained using a child safety seat or booster seat.
- Good government: July 4th crackdown on impaired drivers. As Thomas Jefferson said, “The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only object of good government.” This Fourth of July, law enforcement will be out in full force, aggressively targeting those who put human life and happiness in danger by drinking and driving. Don’t be among them.
Let’s celebrate this Fourth of July responsibly, and do our part to protect all Americans’ rights on the roads by encouraging others to do the same.
Dr. T. Bella Dinh-Zarr is Vice Chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board.