Drivers take caution during Memorial Day weekend

Halen Doughty

Drivers should use extreme caution during the long Memorial Day weekend, as it is the deadliest period of the year for motorists. That's according to Joe Resendiz, who is an analyst with the consumer research group ValuePenguin. He said drivers are more likely to be in a drunk driving-related accident this weekend than any other time of the year.

The warning comes after a report from ValuePenguin ranked Louisiana in the top ten states for fatal DUIs. With 4.80 DUI deaths per 100,000 residents, Louisiana came in at number nine for deadly accidents involving drunk drivers.

There is one alcohol-related traffic fatality every 50 minutes in the US. About 12 in 100,000 people died in a motor vehicle traffic accident last year, and 28 percent of those fatalities involved at least one driver under the influence.

Even without being involved in an accident, drunk driving carries its own consequences, and Resendiz said they can be quite costly. Motorists who are caught driving drunk can expect their license to be suspended for a period of 30 to 90 days. Resendiz said that comes with other problems like finding a way to get to work and school. Fines can soar to more than a thousand dollars, and jail time isn't out of the question. Repeat offenders can even face felony charges.

According to the CDC, 2.5 percent of adult drivers in Louisiana reported they drove after drinking too much in the last thirty days. That is a significant increase over the national average of less than two percent. Between 2003 and 2012, more than 3,000 people were killed in crashes involving a drunk driver in Louisiana, according to the CDC.

Resendiz recommends planning ahead this weekend if you plan to celebrate the holiday with a few drinks. Ride sharing apps like Uber and Lyft can be a literal life-saver. Of course there's always the old fashioned method of designating a driver who will stay sober.

Resendiz pointed out that Louisiana has less restrictive liquor laws compared to other parts of the country. In New Orleans for example, bars can stay open 24 hours, and people can carry open containers on the streets in certain areas. The state is even home to drive-thru daiquiri stands, which is unique to the rest of the country.

But Louisiana wasn't the only southern state to do poorly on this report. Texas came in at number eight, while Oklahoma ranked tenth. Resendiz said looking at the report, the midwest region, which encompasses Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and a few other states, was the second deadliest region in the country for drunk driving fatalities.

Resendiz said proponents of stricter alcohol laws believe they would reduce the number of fatal accidents. But it really comes down to drivers making smarter decisions and not getting behind the wheel after consuming alcohol.

Drivers with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent or higher are considered alcohol-impaired under the law. About one in three traffic deaths in the United States involves a drunk driver, according to the CDC.

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