Driving while impaired is a bad choice, period. It affects not only you, but those around you, including innocent strangers.
That was the core message presented at an event sponsored by PennDOT to highlight the perils of impaired driving, especially during the upcoming Labor Day weekend.
Representatives from PennDOT, the Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs, Geisinger Holy Spirit Hospital, Pennsylvania State Police, and the Pennsylvania DUI Association talked about all aspects of impaired driving. Cumberland County District Attorney Dave Freed also discussed the legal ramifications of getting a DUI, and Cumberland County Coroner Charles Hall reminded motorists of the often deadly consequences of impaired driving.
"Although DUI-related fatalities have fallen in recent times, drug-related crashes are on the rise," PennDOT Secretary Leslie S. Richards said of the event's importance. "Through the collaboration, education, and enforcement efforts of these partners, we look to decrease crashes and fatalities this weekend and beyond."
In 2016, there were more than 2,800 total crashes in Pennsylvania over Labor Day weekend; 281 of those were alcohol-related that resulted in 13 fatalities. Of the total crashes, 106 were drug-related, resulting in two fatalities.
In an effort to curb impaired driving, Pennsylvania's DUI Task Forces, the Pennsylvania State Police along with municipal police departments will conduct checkpoints and roving patrols to target drug- and alcohol-impaired drivers. This effort is funded through PennDOT's statewide distribution of federal funds from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which are used for police overtime, equipment, and other associated costs.
If convicted of a DUI, the cost can easily reach into the thousands of dollars. But more than the financial ramifications, there will be social consequences, like court appearances, community services requirements, or jail time leading to lost time and lost wages. Then there's the biggest cost of all — the potential of losing your own life or taking the life of someone else.
"The consequences of driving while impaired not only affect the individual impacted, but entire families and communities as a whole," says Dale Dangleben, M.D., FACS, trauma program medical director at Geisinger Holy Spirit. "Serious and life-threatening traumatic injuries caused by those driving under the influence can be prevented by simply not getting behind the wheel while impaired. Whether the person is a chronic alcohol abuser or a casual drinker, they may think they aren't impaired. That isn't the case. Alcohol consumption causes slowed reactions, reduced coordination, and poor judgment."
When to travel
As with past high-traffic holidays, PennDOT has launched a tool on 511pa.com to help you find the best time to hit the road this weekend. Using data from the past two years, we've created a side-by-side map that shows the comparative speed on major interstates during one-hour intervals the Friday before Labor Day or Labor Day itself.
Combine this historical data with the real-time data offered 24/7 on 511pa.com and you can make educated decisions on when to begin your holiday travels.
Historical data is available for the Altoona/Southern Alleghenies, Capital (Harrisburg/Lancaster/York), Greater Philadelphia, Lehigh Valley (Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton), Northwestern (Erie), Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Poconos, Southwestern (Pittsburgh), and State College/Northern Tier regions.
Motorists can check conditions on more than 40,000 roadway miles by visiting www.511pa.com. 511PA, which is free and available 24 hours a day, provides traffic delay warnings, weather forecasts, traffic speed information, and access to more than 770 traffic cameras. 511PA is also available through a smartphone application for iPhone and Android devices, by calling 5-1-1, or by following regional Twitter alerts accessible on the 511PA website.
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