Last updated: July 03. 2014 4:10PM - 936 Views

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The Fourth of July is a favorite holiday for many North Carolinians.

Families and friends have gathered across the state to celebrate our nation’s independence with parades and parties.

Many communities plan official fireworks celebreations, events that we think are a much a safer option than trying to put on your own pyrotechnic display. But fireworks are not the only danger this Fourth of July. Independence Day celebrations and cookouts often include alcohol that can quickly take the day from festive to fatal when people choose to drive after drinking.

To help cut down on the number of alcohol-related accidents, the state Highway Patrol says it will step up its “Booze It & Lose It” patrols. Calling the effort Operation Firecracker, troopers will be out in force through Sunday. Law enforcement officials hope that saturation patrols, checking stations and increased public awareness will play a role in ensuring that those who decide to drink don’t drive.

“On Independence Day or any other day of the year, if you are driving after drinking, law enforcement will be working to keep you off the roads,” said Don Nail, director of the Governor’s Highway Safety Program. “Driving after even one drink is risking your life and the lives of others. It’s simple – just don’t do it. Get a ride home from someone that has not been drinking.”

In 2013, there were 353 alcohol-related fatalities in North Carolina. Fewer people have lost their lives to alcohol-related crashes this year, with statistics showing 105 alcohol-related fatalities through June 20, compared to 164 at the same point last year.

Officials recommend these simple tips to prevent drunk driving:

— Plan a safe way home before the fun begins;

— Before drinking, designate a sober driver;

— If you’re impaired, use a taxi, call a sober friend or family member, or use public transportation;

— If you happen to see a drunk driver on the road, don’t hesitate to contact your local law enforcement;

— If you know someone who is about to drive or ride while impaired, take their keys and help them make other arrangements to get to where they are going safely.

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