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Don’t let celebration turn to tragedy

The Fourth of July is one of our country's most beloved holidays. Fireworks, cookouts and all-out celebration have become synonymous with the birthday of one of the world's most famous documents–the Declaration of Independence.

But, many times we hear about the party turning into a tragedy for some family when a driver makes the critical decision of getting behind the wheel of a vehicle after drinking alcohol. Last year, 12 people died as a result of traffic wrecks during the 78-hour July Fourth holiday period, ten on rural roads and two in urban areas. At least two of the deaths were alcohol related, and only three of the wreck victims were using seatbelts. Public safety estimates that 18 people may be killed in traffic wrecks across the state between 6 p.m. on Friday and midnight on Tuesday, July 4.

To discourage drinking and driving this holiday, Alabama State Troopers and other local law enforcement officers are participating in "Operation Zero Tolerance," a statewide safety campaign emphasizing DUI enforcement. They urge all motorists to refrain from drinking and driving to avoid the deadly consequences that often comes with it.

All available troopers will be on duty throughout the four-day holiday period to enforce the traffic laws, to assist motorists, as well as to serve as a visible reminder to drive safely. Federal grants aimed at DUI, speed limit and road construction work zone enforcement will allow troopers who would normally be off to be on duty.

Troopers will concentrate patrols on heavily traveled vacation and beach routes, with particular emphasis on the state's interstate system, U.S. 231 and 331 south of Montgomery and Alabama 59 in Baldwin County. Selected areas of the state will be targeted for aerial speed enforcement. At driver license checkpoints and when patrolling, troopers will be watchful for compliance with the state's safety belt and child restraint laws. Under Alabama's child restraint law,

a child safety seat is required for children through age three in front and back seats. Children ages four and five must be secured in a child safety seat or a regular safety belt. The state's safety belt law requires all front-seat occupants to buckle up.

No matter what the reasons are for celebration, a good time does not mean we ignore the law, or our conscience. No person can say they do not realize what the consequences of driving drunk are.

That doesn't mean everyone can't celebrate in their own way. If alcohol is a part of your party, then be prepared. If you take a six pack with you to the party, also take a designated driver for the ride home and remember to buckle up.