Protecting families on this Fourth of July


Too many people still don't understand that alcohol, drugs and driving don't mix. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration offers the following points to emphasize the life-threatening situation of this fact:

Impaired driving is a serious crime. As a community we all support law enforcement efforts to protect us from theft, burglary, assault and terrorism. Yet, many otherwise law-biding citizens continue to view impaired driving merely as a traffic offense. Don't be fooled. Impaired driving is no accident nor is it a victimless crime.

Impaired driving is one of the most often committed crimes, randomly killing someone in America every 30 minutes and nearly 50 people a day. That means you, your family or friends are just as likely to be innocent victims.

Nationally, impaired driving fatalities are on the rise. Almost 18,000 people are killed each year. More than 250,000 people are injured.

With more people expected to be on our highways during this Fourth of July holiday, this could be one of the deadliest periods ever for impaired driving fatalities.

To protect Havre/Hill County families during this long holiday weekend, local law enforcement agencies are out in full force and will be so through July 13 as part of the "You Drink & Drive. You Lose." national crackdown to keep citizens safe from impaired drivers.

The national crackdown is a partnership of criminal justice and traffic safety partners in all 50 states to catch impaired drivers and to lock them up.

Local law enforcement and law enforcement throughout Montana will be out in full force conducting saturation patrols and sobriety checkpoints to identify and arrest impaired drivers.

To help raise awareness about the campaign, the U.S. Congress provided the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration with $11 million to produce and place national advertisements in English and Spanish to coincide with the crackdown.

The ads will run through July 13 on national networks and programs primarily viewed by 18- to 34-year-old males, the demographic research shows is most likely to drive impaired.

The ads focus on what, according to research, affects behavior change among this group - increased threat of arrest and of losing their car, license and money.

This is the first time the crackdown will be supported by a national advertising effort.

If you're feeling "buzzed," you are most likely impaired. And if you drive impaired, law enforcement will arrest you. If you find it hard to figure out if you've had too many drinks to drive, don't risk it.

There will be no warnings. Our message is simple: You Drink & Drive. You Lose. Violators can lose their licenses, time from their jobs, and lose money in high fines and court costs as well as face imprisonment for repeat offenses, assault and vehicular manslaughter.

Refuse a blood alcohol concentration test and you can lose your license on the spot and have your car impounded. You'll be spending your money on bail, court, lawyer and towing fees instead of on your summer vacation.

We have come to a crossroads in our efforts to prevent this deadly crime. America is at a crucial point at which we must all do more as communities and as individuals if we are to make significant declines in the number of alcohol- and drug-related crashes.

The key to reversing this alarming trend is taking a systematic approach with law enforcement, prosecutors, judicial officials, traffic safety partners and individuals each doing their part to protect innocent victims from impaired drivers.

Nearly 97 percent of Americans view impaired driving as a threat to the community.

Communities throughout America support increased criminal justice efforts to stop this illegal and life-threatening offense. The majority of Americans support increased use of enforcement efforts, such as saturation patrols and sobriety checkpoints, to protect innocent victims.

Three-fourths of Americans strongly endorse the use of stricter and more severe penalties against impaired drivers, to protect themselves and their loved ones.

The Hill County Safe Kids/Safe Communities Coalition, The HELP Committee, and Havre Public Schools are committed to making our neighborhoods safer and will be working with criminal justice officials to remind everyone:

Don't risk it. If you plan to drive, don't drink.

Choose a sober designated driver before partying.

Take a taxicab or ask a friend to drive you home if you didn't plan in advance.

Spend the night where the activity is being held.

Report impaired drivers to law enforcement.

Sobriety checkpoints, saturation patrols, undercover officers and concerned citizens - chances are if you drive impaired this holiday you'll get caught. This July Fourth holiday and every day, please celebrate responsibly, designate a sober driver or take a taxicab, or chances are you'll be taking a ride straight to jail. Remember: You Drink & Drive. You Lose.

There is never enough help, and there are never too many voices. To learn how you can make a difference in Havre/Hill County, including how to host a party responsibly, please contact the HELP Committee at 265-6206.


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