Public safety crucial for Georgians ahead of July 4 holiday travel

AAA offers Tow To Go program to help people avoid driving impaired over holiday weekend
Published: Jun. 29, 2022 at 4:34 PM EDT
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ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS46) - With AAA officials predicting 1.5 million Georgians will travel 50 miles or more between June 30 and July 4, there is a heightened urgency from Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Georgia State Patrol, public safety and AAA officials to help people avoid driving impaired or distracted.

In 2006, Theresa De Wild says her sister Brandy Fehr was a victim of a drunk driving crash in Colorado. That devastating loss inspired De Wild to join Georgia’s Mothers Against Drunk Driving as a volunteer. Now, De Wild serves as Program and Fund Development Manager for MADD in Georgia. She hopes her personal message will help steer others in the right direction after she experienced a pain that never goes away.

“It physically made me ill,” she said. “You lose that person that is there for you every single day.”

“Knowing that you’ll never hear their laugh again or talk to them on the phone. Here I am 16 years later and I still reach for the phone and I’m like, ‘I want to tell her holy cow there’s a new Top Gun out.’ But, I don’t have that luxury anymore. It’s very hard to deal with every day. You learn to live a new normal.”

Since its inception in 1980, MADD has helped to save more than 400,000 lives and reduce drunk driving deaths by more than 50 %. De Wild reminds the public of the importance of using a designated driver, rideshare program and AAA’s Tow To Go program.

Photo of Brandy Fehr
Photo of Brandy Fehr(Theresa De Wild)

AAA says nearly 1.4 million Georgians are expected to travel by automobile,102,354 by plane and 51,472 by bus, train or cruise.

To help combat drivers getting behind the wheel while impaired or distracted, AAA will be giving free tows and rides to only the driver of the vehicle for up to 10 miles beginning at 6 p.m. on July 1 until 6 a.m. on July 5. The number to call is 855-2-TOW-2-GO.

“The focus of this is to get impaired drivers off the road but to make sure they have a plan in place, an alternative, before they head out,” said AAA spokesperson Garrett Townsend.

Townsend said the Tow to Go program has removed more than 25,000 impaired drivers from the road. The program was used most recently on Memorial Day weekend. It’s not offered everywhere but it is available in parts of Georgia including metro Atlanta.

AAA reminds drivers they cannot make appointments for their Tow-to-Go Service as the service is designed as a safety net for those who did not plan ahead for a sober ride. It is free and open to everyone. You are not required to be a AAA member to use the program.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 493 people were killed in traffic crashes during the 84-hour July 4 holiday travel period between 6 p.m. July 2 and 5:59 a.m. on July 6 in 2020. According to statistics, more than 40 % of those fatalities during the July 4 holiday weekend were alcohol-impaired crashes. Data shows 85 % of those crashes occurred at night.

NHTSA data for Georgia also shows that 90 people have been killed during the July 4 holiday travel period between 2016 and 2020. More than 30 % of those fatalities were alcohol-impaired crashes and 65 % involved drivers whose blood alcohol level was twice the legal limit in Georgia.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration stat photo
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration stat photo(National Highway Traffic Safety Administration)
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistics 2017 and 2018
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistics 2017 and 2018(National Highway Traffic Safety Administration)
2019 and 2020 crash statistic
2019 and 2020 crash statistic(National Highway Traffic Safety Administration)
Total crash statistic from 2016-2020
Total crash statistic from 2016-2020(National Highway Traffic Safety Administration)

Georgia ranks No. 4 for the largest number of fatal accidents in the United States annually. In 2020, there were more than 330,000 crashes in Georgia. Of these, officials say 1,588 were fatal accidents with 1,730 people killed.

State troopers, sheriff’s deputies, and police officers in Georgia maintain a year-round zero-tolerance policy for drunk and drugged driving and arrest all drivers found to be over the legal Blood Alcohol Concentration Limit (BAC) in Georgia of .08.

“If you are stopped for driving under the influence, do not ask for a warning because this is the only warning we will give,” said Allen Poole, Director of the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety. “State troopers and local law enforcement officers want those who have been drinking to ride with a sober driver because if a Georgia law enforcement officer has to give a drunk driver a ride, it will be to jail in the back seat of a patrol car.”

The Governor’s Office of Highway Safety also announced the partnership with the Georgia State Patrol, Georgia Motor Carrier Compliance Division, GOHS Traffic Enforcement Networks, and GOHS Highway Enforcement of Aggressive Traffic (H.E.A.T.) units to increase enforcement during the extended holiday weekend with the goal to reduce crashes and save lives.

“All drunk driving deaths are completely preventable because they are caused by someone making the decision to drive after drinking,” Poole said. “Every time you pass the keys to a sober driver, call for a ride, or give a friend a ride, you are helping to save a life. Do not let the holiday weekend end in tragedy.”

The Governor’s Office of Highway Safety and NHTSA offer the following safe driving tips:

  • Allow more time for your trip due to more vehicles being on the road
  • Do not try to make up time by speeding.
  • Make sure everyone in your vehicle is wearing a seat belt and children under 8 are riding in an approved safety seat
  • Designate a passenger to use a phone for navigation and communication
  • Take breaks when needed and change drivers if possible