The heat is on in Colorado this Fourth of July, with additional DUI checkpoints and greater police presence on the city streets. Celebrating Independence Day with a backyard barbecue and a beer is as American as apple pie, but if you aren’t careful after the festivities, you could end up being the victim of a drunk driver.
The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), the Colorado State Patrol, and local municipal law enforcement agencies are increasing law enforcement presence July 2-5, hoping to avoid impaired drivers from hurting themselves and others in a drunk driving accident.
This action is coupled with a new CDOT initiative to help reduce the number of impaired drivers on the roads, a campaign called “It’s Not Complicated.” The focus of this campaign is to inform people that no matter how many or few alcoholic beverages they’ve had, the answer to whether they should drive afterward is always “no.”
There are a lot of myths about whether people are “okay to drive” after drinking. Some believe that drinking black coffee or chugging water can counter the effects of alcohol. Other arguments center around the thought that “buzzed” drivers are better because they’re more careful. Don’t believe these tales!
The only thing that improves your ability to drive after drinking is time. It takes approximately one hour for your body to process an average serving of alcohol, so to keep yourself and others safe this holiday weekend, arrange for safe transportation home, don’t get out on the roads, and make sure that everyone at your party has a safe way home, too.
Heightened Law Enforcement Presence
Matthew C. Packard, Chief of the Colorado State Patrol, urges Colorado residents to make a plan when celebrating this weekend. As he states, “Before you consume alcohol or marijuana, have a sober ride set up or plan to stay in place. Your loved ones and fellow motorists are counting on you to make safe decisions.”
For many Colorado communities, the Fourth of July holiday is one of the deadliest times of the year in regard to car collision fatalities. When the 4th falls on a Monday, giving people a long weekend, then the potential for more impaired drivers on the road over the weekend is higher.
Although each community will have its own approach to increasing DUI and DWI enforcement, common actions include having more law enforcement officers on duty, increasing the DUI saturation patrols, and adding more sobriety checkpoints.
It’s important to note that cycling under the influence of alcohol or drugs could also result in an accident, and officers may be checking bikers as well as motor vehicle operators.
Last Fourth of July, more than 90 law enforcement agencies participated in the increased police efforts to remove impaired drivers from Colorado roadways. Collectively, there were more than 170 arrests.
This isn’t the only time that Colorado law enforcement agencies have teamed up with CDOT to remove impaired drivers from the roads. The Summer Blitz DUI enforcement initiative — a campaign that which 68 law enforcement agencies participated in — resulted in 161 arrests.
Colorado’s “The Heat Is On” Campaign
The Colorado Department of Transportation’s Highway Safety Office funds state law enforcement departments to increase impaired driving enforcement, as well as to create educational and awareness initiatives.
The aim of the program is to help Colorado drivers understand the effects of impaired driving and options to travel if they’ve been drinking or using marijuana.
The CDOT’s The Heat Is On campaign operates throughout the year and focuses on 16 specific impaired driving enforcement periods, many of which center around high-visibility dates, like national holidays and large public events.
The Heat Is On is part of CDOT’s Whole System-Whole Safety program, which has a mission to get all Colorado drivers home safely.
The Impact of Impaired Driving on Driver Safety
One of the main reasons for these additional impaired driver campaigns is that DUI and DWI crashes can be devastating. According to a CDOT report, Driving Under the Influence of Drugs and Alcohol, A Report Pursuant to House Bill 17-1315, more than 26,000 DUI charges were filed by Colorado prosecutors. 94% of these charges were misdemeanor DUI charges — in fact, these are the most common DUI charges filed at DUI checkpoints.
Furthermore, this report noted that 26% of drivers who were convicted of a DUI or DWI were involved in car crashes, and over 900 of those collisions resulted in injuries.
Although drivers who operated the vehicles impaired from using marijuana had a lower incidence of collisions, drivers who tested positive for both Delta-9 THC and alcohol had the highest crash rates, measuring in at 29%.
Even if drivers aren’t involved in a collision, there are still significant negative consequences to operating a vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Colorado gives the same penalties for “driving while ability impaired” (DWAI) as penalties for using drugs or alcohol.
Safety Tips for Cyclists and Pedestrians
The dangers of a car collision when one driver is drunk cannot be overstated. Many times, DUI crash injuries can be life-changing and catastrophic, rendering people partly paralyzed or with broken limbs, concussions, or a traumatic brain injury. However, pedestrians and cyclists will often fare worse if they’re struck by a drunk driver.
Be aware of your surroundings, especially if you’re biking or walking near places where people may be drinking and driving. This means staying off your phone and not wearing headphones.
If you're walking through a parking lot after a big concert or sporting event, make sure you’re careful about walking in front of cars. This is also true when you’re crossing the street.
Even if you have the right-of-way or are in a crosswalk, an impaired driver may not be paying attention. Look carefully when crossing the street.
Wear a helmet when cycling, whether you think it’s a time when there are more impaired drivers on the roads or not. Adhere to all road safety protocols and traffic signals, as well, and be on the lookout for drivers who may be weaving, speeding, or failing to pay attention.
What Happens If I’ve Been Involved in a Drunk Driving Accident?
Even with increased law enforcement presence and focus on removing impaired drivers from the roads, there may still be people who choose to drive after drinking or using marijuana.
Although there are many options for safe transportation — from designating a sober driver to using a rideshare service or the CDOT’s Bustang and inter-regional bus service — the harsh truth is that some people simply make a selfish choice to put themselves and others in harm’s way.
At Mann & Maximon, we have seen the aftermath of DUI and DWI accidents all too often. We fight for the victims of drunk driving accidents to help you get the justice you deserve.
Impaired driving, by its very nature, is an act of negligence. If you were struck by a drunk driver, whether you were in another vehicle or struck while walking or riding your bike, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries and pain and suffering.
If you’ve been struck by an impaired driver, you may be able to seek damages. Contact us for a free consultation about your case.
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