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Safe Independence and Labor Day Travels

During the 4th of July, and Labor Day weekend, there will be a lot more people on the road, and likely a lot more drunk drivers. Traffic crashes are the leading cause of injury and death to children and adults. A large number of traffic crashes occur when alcohol consumption is combined with driving.

It is astonishing to think that every 31 minutes someone is killed in an alcohol-related crash. At holiday times, the number of crashes due to drunk drivers can increase by 10% or more. In 2003, 40% of all fatal traffic crashes involved alcohol, but during the Labor Day Holiday approximately 51% of the crashes involved alcohol, killing a total of 505 people.

Children are too frequently the victims in alcohol-related car crashes. Tragically, from 1997-2002, 1,588 (68%) of the 2,335 children killed in an alcohol-related crash were passengers in the car with a drunk driver at the wheel. In 2000 it was reported that nearly 2400 (67% of 3556) drinking drivers were old enough to be the child’s parent or caretaker. Drinking alcohol before driving is often coupled with other risk-taking behaviors. Drunk drivers are less likely to use a seat belt themselves or buckle up their child passengers. Not surprisingly, the likelihood of driving with appropriate safety restraints decreases with the increase in alcohol consumed.

Safe Driving Tips

  • Adopt a zero-alcohol-tolerance policy, especially when transporting children.

  • Always buckle-up and teach children to buckle-up.

  • Secure your child in the appropriate car seat or safety belt every time they ride.

  • Check the car seat instructions to be sure about the correct age and weight limits of the car seat.

  • Be sure infants ride facing the back of the car until they are at least 1 year old.

  • Keep children in a safety seat with a harness as long as possible (per the seat weight and height limits).

  • Use a booster seat for children who have outgrown their safety seat, typically around age 4. Many children need to ride in a booster seat until they are age 8-11 years.

  • Keep children in the back seat properly buckled up until they are at least 12 years old; recent research suggests they ride in the back seat until age 15.


  1. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (n.d.) Traffic Safety Facts 2003: Alcohol, DOT HS 809 761 Washington, DC: NHTSA.

  2. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (n.d.) Traffic Safety Facts 2003: A Compilation of Motor Vehicle Crash Data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System and the General Estimates System, Alcohol, DOT HS 809 775 Washington, DC: NHTSA.

  3. RA Shults, PhD. (February, 2004) Child Passenger Deaths Involving Drinking Drivers —
  4. United States, 1997—2002. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. 53(04);77-79

  5. Quinlan KP, Brewer RD, Sleet DA, Dellinger AM. (May, 2000) Characteristics of child passenger deaths and injuries involving drinking drivers. Journal of the American Medical Association 283(17):2249-2252.

This information provided by the San Diego State University Foundation.

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