July 4th Holiday is a Danger for Drinking and Driving

Auto Club Offers Free Tipsy Tow Service for the Weekend

(Los Angeles, June 30, 2005) — The July 4th holiday period is one of the most dangerous times of the year for drinking and driving, according to an analysis by the Automobile Club of Southern California. The analysis indicates that about 500 persons could be killed or injured in alcohol-related collisions this weekend. The historical analysis reviewed California Highway Patrol data from 1990 — 2004.

"In 2003 and 2004, DUI-related crashes killed or injured an average of 496 people each year during the three day Independence Day holiday period," said Patrice Frazier, managing director, school and community programs. "This year, July 4th also involves a three-day weekend and we would expect to see comparable number of deaths and injuries."

The July 4th holiday period is the third most dangerous time of the year for nighttime drinking and driving related crashes and fourth most for daytime crashes. The number of people killed and injured follows only the Christmas, New Year's and Super Bowl periods.

"Even though the numbers are still too high, the rate of DUI-related deaths and injuries has been declining over the 15 years of the Auto Club analysis," said Frazier. "In 1990, 28 percent of all people killed and injured in collisions were in drinking and driving related crashes. In 2004, the number of alcohol-related deaths and injuries was 18 percent. We hope the numbers will be further reduced if people realize their safety and that of others is more important than drinking too much."

To help keep motorists safe, the Auto Club is offering its free Tipsy Tow service to drinking drivers during the Fourth of July holiday weekend. The service is available from 6 p.m. on Friday July 1 until midnight on Monday, July 4. Tipsy Tow is available in the 13 Southern California counties served by the Auto Club.

Motorists, bartenders, restaurant managers, party hosts or passengers of a drinking driver may call 1-800-400-4AAA for a free tow home of up to seven miles. Callers simply tell the Auto Club operators, "I need a Tipsy Tow," to receive the free tow and ride home. A regular Auto Club-contracted emergency road service truck will be dispatched.

Callers need to keep in mind that the service excludes rides for passengers, is restricted to a one-way, one-time ride for the driver and the destination is limited to the driver's residence. Reservations are not accepted. Drivers can expect to pay the rate charged by the tow truck contractor for rides farther than seven miles.

"We want motorists to be aware of the high crash risk from drinking and driving associated with holidays and encourage them to think twice about getting behind the wheel if they have been drinking," Frazier said.

Independence Day is a traditional time for excursions, parties, trips to the beach, backyard picnics and barbecues, activities that contribute to a more relaxed atmosphere and more drinking, according to Frazier.

"It takes only one or two drinks to slow physical and mental skills and affect vision, steering, braking, judgement and reaction time," Frazier said. "We hope drivers are aware that the CHP and law enforcement agencies are likely to be using extra patrols to look for drinking drivers during holidays."

While the number of Californians arrested for driving under the influence in 2003 (the latest figures available), is far lower than it was 20 years ago, it is still disturbingly high — 186,000, according to Frazier. Statewide annual alcohol-related fatal and injury crashes have also decreased sharply, from 45,000 twenty years ago (1983) to nearly 22,000 in 2003. "We'd like to see these numbers reduced even further, particularly the high numbers during holidays," Frazier added.

Drinking drivers frequently don't plan for other ways to get home because they are concerned about retrieving their vehicle. They say the expense of taxis and time inconvenience as the major reasons they don't use alternative transportation, according to the Auto Club. Tipsy Tow provides motorists with a safe ride home for themselves and their vehicles instead of driving while intoxicated.

People convicted of driving under the influence could lose many of the most important things in their lives, such as family, job, dignity and money. The Auto Club estimates that a first time DUI conviction can cost about $11,000 in fines, penalties, restitution, legal fees and insurance costs.

Current laws, enforcement, public awareness and education efforts by public service-oriented organizations, including the Auto Club, have contributed to the decline in the number of alcohol-related fatalities and injuries for the past 10 years. The Auto Club provides the Tipsy Tow service and free publications as part of its "You Drink. You Drive. You Lose." public awareness campaign.

The Auto Club advises that motorists can keep themselves and others safe and can avoid DUI arrests by keeping these safety tips in mind:

  • At social events, designate non-drinking drivers who can get everyone home safely.
  • Call a friend of family member for a ride if you have been drinking.
  • Keep a cab company telephone number in your wallet so you can call for a ride home.
  • As a party host, offer a variety of non-alcoholic drink alternatives and provide a gift to guests who volunteer to be designated drivers.
  • Take the car keys away from friends and relatives who have had too much to drink.

The Automobile Club of Southern California, the largest AAA affiliate, has served members since 1900. Today, Auto Club members benefit by the organization's roadside assistance, financial products, travel agency and trip planning services, highway and transportation safety programs, insurance products and services and automotive pricing, car buying and financing programs. Information about these products and services is available at www.aaa.com.

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