PennDOT, police, safety partners highlight driving safety ahead of Independence Day holiday

The Berks County District Attorney’s Office, local law enforcement, and the Highway Safety Network gathered Friday morning to promote safe driving ahead of the Independence Day holiday.

Held at Mifflin Park Elementary School, grounds of the annual Great Governor Mifflin League Community Days event, a brief press conference discussed how to safely handle aggressive driving and regional DUI patrols as part of this year’s impaired driving mobilization.

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“Historically we have seen an uptick in drunk driving and aggressive driving over the summer months” said Jordan Fegley, Berks County Assistant District Attorney.

According to Department of Transportation data, in 2023 there were 38 alcohol-related crashes from July 4 through 6:00 A.M. July 5, resulting in two fatalities and 23 injuries in Pennsylvania. During the same time, there were 10 drug-related crashes, resulting in one fatality and eight injuries. Last summer, from June through August, there were 2,375 crashes involving impaired driving, resulting in 116 fatalities and 1,575 injuries.

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“Regarding DUI, we’re going to have aggressive enforcement on DUI details. In Pennsylvania driving with a blood alcohol concentration over .08 is a DUI. DUI results in a lot of crashes every year and a lot of injuries and deaths. Additionally, it results in huge economic loss to the driver and the Commonwealth. Local law enforcement will be on the look for aggressive driving and DUI in the next few months” said Fegley.

Chief Madison Winchester of the Cumru Township Police Department aggressive driving becomes more of a concern in the summer months. “Often times if alcohol is introduced, aggressive driving can turn into road rage, which is very dangerous” he said.

Winchester offered a few tips to when encountering an aggressive driver. “One of the first things I would say would be to pull over safely and allow that aggressive driver just to pass you if they’re behind you. Often times that’s how aggressive driving starts, whether they’re on your bumper. The easiest and best thing to do would be just to let them pass safely. Don’t let your ego or pride get away” he said.

If the situation escalates, Winchester suggests ignoring the driver, avoiding eye contact, allow them to pass, and reporting the incident to police. “We tell motorists not to follow anybody, just pull over safely and call the police. If you can get a description that’s great, if you can get a location that’s even better” he said.

Winchester continued, “If you follow an aggressive driver chances are then you’re going to be driving aggressively, and you’re gonna be breaking the law, and that could turn into a road rage incident, which is totally different than aggressive driving. Road rage is often a criminal offense and arrest-able.”

Speaking on impaired driving, Winchester said “If you see someone that you believe might be under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance while driving, the safest thing to do is to distance yourself from them pull over safely and call the police, call 911.”

Signs someone may be driving under the influence include: Driving erratically, not using turn signals, driving aggressively, swerving, if they appear to be distracted.

“Impaired driving, both alcohol and drugs, crashes, injuries, fatalities property damage and even arrest are 100% avoidable because it’s the motorists that makes the poor choice to drive while impaired” Dave Everly of the Highway Safety Network. “Use a designated driver or lift or Uber or park your vehicle and stay with a friend if you’re at a picnic or a party and find alternate transportation.”

Closing the event, Sergeant David Bentz of the Exeter Township Police Department gave a reminder to the public that the best defense against aggressive driving or impaired drivers is to buckle up. “Wear your seat belt like your life depends on it, because it truly does” he said.

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