Editorial: Safe Planning for Independence

Editorial: Safe Planning for Independence

Talking and planning about celebrating July 4, and throughout the summer months.

Independence Day is a national celebration, and for many, that celebration includes alcohol. The summer overall and July 4 in particular are times of greater risk for drinking and driving.

This is true for the young adults over 21 living with you, and unfortunately also for many teens who are under 21. More on that below.

For all revelers in independence: Make a plan. Plan to celebrate with access to public transportation. Plan to have a designated driver. Plan to celebrate in a place safe and comfortable to spend the night.

But in case those plans go awry, here is an alternative safety net.

On the night of Saturday, July 4, the Washington Regional Alcohol Program will offer free taxi rides home (up to $30), beginning at 10 p.m. for six hours until 4 a.m. the morning of July 5. Participants must be at least 21. Call 1-800-200-TAXI.

On July 4, 2014, more than 150 people used WRAP’s SoberRide service rather than possibly driving home impaired.

In summer, 44 percent of all U.S. traffic deaths are caused by alcohol-impaired drivers, according to statistics provided by WRAP. SoberRide is a way to help keep local roads safe from impaired drivers during this traditionally high-risk holiday.

On July 4, historically, nearly 40 percent of traffic deaths in the U.S. are caused by drunk drivers; more than 20 percent of the drunk drivers involved in those deaths during the 2013 July 4 holiday had blood alcohol concentrations of nearly twice the legal limit, said Kurt Erickson of WRAP.

For parents of young adults who may be living at home and parents of those under 21, this is time to talk. Ask about plans, ask specifically about getting home. Remind those over 21 to take the WRAP phone number with them.

While you hope that young adults under 21 aren’t drinking — because there are lots of dangers to binge drinking beyond drinking and driving — you know that many of them will be drinking. Talk with your teens about the problems of binge drinking. Let your younger family members know that you would much rather pay for a cab or come get them yourself than run the risk of losing them.

This is a message important for the tail end of graduation season and good for the whole summer, which is the time of the highest risk for teen drivers.

Since 1993, WRAP’s SoberRide program has provided more than 62,500 free cab rides home to would-be drunk drivers in the Greater Washington area.

For more information, visit www.soberride.com.