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Zero Tolerance: Law enforcement targets drunk drivers over Fourth of July holiday

CONYERS — The Fourth of July is a holiday of celebration with friends, family and fireworks. However, for some, the holiday — which lands on a Friday this year, making for a long weekend of celebration – can turn dangerous if they choose to drink and drive.

The Governor’s Office of Highway Safety is once again joining the national impaired driving effort to get drunk drivers off the road.

To crack down on drinking and driving this Fourth of July, law enforcement across the state will be out in full force, aggressively targeting those who are impaired behind the wheel. The GOHS launched on Friday Operation Zero Tolerance in conjunction with the national Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over Campaign. In other words, if you are driving while over the legal limit, you’ll be under arrest, according to the GOHS.

“This July 4th holiday, you can show your patriotism by helping to make Georgia’s roads safer for everyone by driving sober or making sure you have a sober ride home,” said GOHS Director Harris Blackwood. “Drunk driving is a zero tolerance offense. No warnings. You will be arrested and you will go to jail. We repeat this message every year because it’s true.”

Crash and injury rates during the Fourth of July period have decreased slightly over the last year. Similarly, fatality rates remained even with six over a 30-hour travel period in 2012 and 20 over a 102-hour travel period in 2013, the GOHS reported.

This holiday travel period is not only dangerous here in Georgia. Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows this time of year is particularly deadly nationwide. In 2012, 179 people were killed in crashes between 6 p.m. on July 3 and 5:59 a.m. on July 5. Furthermore, 44 percent of those fatal crashes involved alcohol impairment. Twenty-eight percent of those crashes involved a driver or motorcycle operator with a Blood Alcohol Content of .15 or higher, which is almost twice the .08 legal limit in all 50 states. These crashes are also disproportionately occurring at night. During that same 2012 holiday travel period, more than a third (39 percent) of drivers in nighttime fatal crashes were alcohol-impaired, as compared to 16 percent of drivers in fatal crashes during the day.

GOHS will continue Operation Zero Tolerance until those numbers reach zero. “We are still experiencing one traffic fatality every five hours in Georgia during what is supposed to be a fun, summer holiday,” Blackwood said. “That means there are 20 people who won’t be celebrating our nation’s independence this year.”

This year, Operation Zero Tolerance began Friday and runs through Sunday, July 6. The Fourth of July travel period with be a 78-hour period from July 3 to July 6. For more information on Operation Zero Tolerance, visit www.gahighwaysafety.org.