TIPTON - With all the preparation that goes into the Fourth of July holiday, PennDOT and area police want to remind everyone that when it comes to drinking, planning ahead saves lives.
"The main message we try to take to the people is: Make your plans ahead of time," PennDOT spokesman Anthony Scalia said Tuesday while at DelGrosso's Amusement Park in Tipton, where a visual reminder of highway safety - a wrecked car - was covered with signatures of visitors.
"This is actually the fourth year PennDOT has been at the park leading up to the Fourth of July asking people to make a pledge to not drive impaired and reminding them of the dangers of things like not wearing their seat belts and aggressive driving," said PennDOT spokeswoman Dawn Roussey.
Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec
Kaitlin Cann, 10, of Portage was among the children and adults signing a wrecked automobile on display at DelGrosso’s Amusement Park.
Trooper Jeffrey Petucci said state police will be conducting a DUI checkpoint this weekend and conducting roving patrols, not only to catch impaired drivers but also to enforce the state's seat belt law and address aggressive driving.
"Everyone knows people will be going out to celebrate," Petucci said. "Do it responsibly; have a designated driver."
Also this year, PennDOT was at the park to promote the John R. Elliot HERO Campaign for Designated Drivers.
Scalia noted Elliot was a U.S. Naval Academy graduate killed by a drunken driver in 2000. PennDOT, Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board and state police back the campaign, and Roussey said it's a way local bars and taverns can get involved in addressing the issue of drunken driving.
The message is simple, but police said people continue to drive while intoxicated.
Sgt. Christopher Cohn, coordinator of the Blair County DUI Task Force, said during the Fourth of July holiday between 2008 and 2012, 765 people nationwide lost their lives in crashes involving drivers with a blood alcohol content of 0.08 percent or higher. Those deaths account for 40 percent of the highway fatalities over that time frame.
"First and foremost, don't drink and drive," Cohn said, adding that people should also remember to wear their seat belts and drivers need to allow themselves enough time to get safely to their destinations.
Cohn said people should plan a safe way home before the party starts and before the drinking begins, designate a driver who won't drink alcohol. People should also call a friend or a taxi if they're impaired, and motorists who see a drunken driver on the road should call 911.
"Whether you've had way too many or just one too many, it's never worth the risk to drive impaired," Cohn said. "There's always another way home."