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Paying attention + holiday traffic = plan for safe travels

State police urge drivers to stay safe this weekend

Oregon State Police, Oregon Department of Transportation and law enforcement partners statewide urge all travelers during the long Fourth of July holiday weekend to keep the roads safe for everyone.

Last year's 30-hour Fourth of July holiday period was only the second time Oregon recorded no traffic fatalities during what is traditionally the deadliest major holiday period of the year on Oregon roads. This year's holiday period covers a much larger time period — 102 hours — which started 6 p.m. July 3 and runs through 11:59 p.m. July 7.

"Some of our deadliest holidays occur during the Fourth of July period, so to prevent fatal traffic crashes on our roads requires increased police enforcement and drivers doing everything they can to travel safely," said Capt. Ted Phillips, director of the OSP Patrol Services Division.

Law enforcement's main focus will be the crackdown to catch and arrest impaired drivers. Oregon law enforcement agencies are joining others nationwide as part of the ongoing "Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over" crackdown, which involves stepped-up enforcement efforts aimed at stopping impaired drivers before they become involved in a traffic crash or cause a tragic highway incident.

The latest statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration underscore the continuing toll drunk driving imposes on the nation. Impaired driving crashes killed 9,878 people in 2011, accounting for 31 percent of the total traffic fatalities in the United States. That's an average of one alcohol-impaired-driving fatality every 53 minutes, according to NHTSA. The percentage spikes around the Fourth of July.

Statistics gathered by Oregon's Fatality Analysis Reporting System over the past 25 years show nearly half of all Fourth of July period traffic fatalities were in alcohol-involved crashes. Three-hundred people have died during the Fourth of July holiday period since 1970; more than 50 of those deaths during the last 10 years.

The anticipated warmer weather, coupled with Fourth of July celebrations, often extends celebrations and gatherings well into the evening and night. According to NHTSA, statistics reflect the combined dangers of alcohol and night driving. In 2011, the proportion of alcohol impairment among drivers involved in fatal crashes was almost 4.5 times higher at night.

OSP, Oregon State Sheriffs' Association and Oregon Association Chiefs of Police remind everyone that while death and injury are the most serious of possible consequences of drunk driving, there are other consequences that can affect lives for many years, including loss of a driver license, vehicle impoundment, jail time, lawyer and court costs and insurance hikes.

OSP, OSSA, OACP and ODOT offer the following safety reminders to help keep your holiday travels safe:

• Get rested before you are tested. Fatigued drivers are more frequent during holiday weekends because of increased travel and activity. Be patient and allow plenty of time to reach your destination.

• Pay attention. An inattentive driver is a growing safety concern on roads and an increasing factor in traffic crashes.

• Know before you go: Stay up to date on road conditions by visiting TripCheck.com or calling 5-1-1.

• Even when workers are not present, all work zone speed limits still apply and fines double. Inactive work zones still have equipment, detours and incomplete changes in the roadway so drivers need to slow down and be alert.

• Share the road. Don't tailgate and check your mirrors and blind spots before changing lanes.

• Be on the lookout for bicyclists, pedestrians and other vulnerable users of roads.

• Always use safety restraints and child safety seats correctly. (See childsafetyseat.org for proper buckling tips and other information.)

• If traveling, bring non-alcoholic refreshments and water to help stay hydrated. This could really come in handy if your vehicle unexpectedly breaks down along a highway and you have to wait for help.

• Don't drink and drive; don't be impaired and drive. These can be deadly combinations.

• Move over if you are approaching any type of emergency vehicle, tow truck or roadside assistance vehicle, which is stopped on the roadside with emergency lights activated.

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