AL law enforcement pushes for 'Fatality-Free Fourth of July'
MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - A strong warning has been issued to drivers as millions of people get ready to hit the road for the Fourth of July in a push to save lives.
Police will be out in full force over the next several days in an effort to cut down on crashes and fatalities.
It's a special time to gather with friends and family, but there's a deadly side to the holiday, and local and state authorities are urging safe practices on the roads and waterways.
Montgomery County District Attorney Daryl Bailey hosted a press conference Friday to address the deadly issue of driving or boating under the influence.
State troopers and members of Montgomery law enforcement agencies were there, along with Alabama Department of Transportation officials and Mothers Against Drunk Driving advocates.
In 2015, there were 223 traffic fatalities in Alabama from January-July. There were 527 fatalities for the whole year.
In 2016, there were 307 traffic fatalities from January-July. There were a total of 671 traffic fatalities for the entire year in 2016.
Thirteen people were killed last year on roadways over the July 4 time period.
This year, through the month of June, there have already been 316 traffic fatalities in the state.
The top contributing factors in the deadly crashes are speeding and driving under the influence, officials said.
The increase in driving under the influence and boating under the influence on roadways and waterways is of a major concern, the district attorney said.
"Too many lives are lost each year due to drunk driving. When you are caught driving under the influence, it's going to cost you thousands in attorney fees and court costs. More importantly, it may cost you or someone else their life," Bailey added. "We have seen a forty percent increase in fatalities so far this year over 2015."
Carolyn Tyus, with Mothers Against Drunk Drivers, also spoke at the press conference. Her son would have turned 31 this week, but his family has to celebrate his birthday at the cemetery.
Renota Tyus was killed by a drunk driver on May 17, 2008. It happened at 2 a.m. at the intersection of South Street and South Lawrence Street in Montgomery.
Prosecutors say the other driver, Patrick Barnes, was speeding and had a blood alcohol level of .23, almost three times the legal limit, when he ran the red light and slammed into Tyus' car.
Tyus was headed home after dropping some of his friends off.
"Barnes had been out to a couple of bars. He ran the light doing 67 in a 25 at a .23. My son had no idea what happened to him because he was dead on impact. He had head injuries, back injuries, neck injuries. Barnes also tried to leave the scene but something was hung up under his car," Carolyn Tyus said.
Patrick Barnes was convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison.
Renota Tyus' mother got involved with M.A.D.D. right after her son's tragic death.
"I want to speak out to save another life. I want to save someone else," she said. "We want you to enjoy the holiday. That's for sure. But I want people to enjoy it without something happening, whether it be to you or you harming someone else so the best thing is to already have a plan before you take that first sip."
Allison Green, Drive Safe Alabama Coordinator, challenged drivers to have a "Fatality-Free Fourth."
There's two ways to make that happen: don't drive impaired by alcohol or drugs and wear your seat belt.
"You're seven times more likely to die in a crash if there's an alcohol impaired driver," Green said. "And make sure everyone in your vehicle is buckled up. That decision is in your hands. We know that 56% of people that die on Alabama roads are not wearing a seat belt. Many of those crashes are survivable."
The Montgomery County Sheriff's Office will have deputies on their normal patrol beats, as well as additional personnel working under an overtime grant through the end of the Fourth of July.
They will be out in the community with a primary focus on impaired driving and violations of speed and traffic laws.
The Montgomery Police Department and state troopers will also have extra personnel out on the streets. They will be strictly focused on road safety and looking for impaired driving.
"We're going to be trying to deter this type of thing from happening," said Corporal Jesse Thornton with the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency. "Think ahead. If your plans involve drinking, have a designated driver in advance, designate someone to operate that vessel in advance."
District Attorney Bailey promised tough prosecution for any driver busted for driving under the influence.
"If you drive drunk and you hurt someone, I will use the full resources of the district attorney's office to make sure you go to prison. If you kill someone, you will be charged with murder," he stated. "Be smart, plan ahead, do not speed, put down the phones, and do not drink and drive. We will be watching and you will be caught and you will go to prison."
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