Keep it safe while celebrating Fourth

On Wednesday, Americans will celebrate the 236th birthday our nation.

It's a tradition that involves the likes of fireworks and parties, along with plenty of food and drink.

The drink, however, when it involves alcohol can be a bad mix with fireworks and driving. The Fourth of July is a deadly time on our nation's highways, which are expected to be packed with travelers this week. AAA Travel, the auto club, estimates more people will travel at least 50 miles from home this holiday "weekend" -- which starts today and continues through midnight Sunday." The 42.3 million people who are expected to be on the road would be the biggest number since before the recession hit.

In Georgia alone, more than 1.1 million people are expected to be a traveling mood this week, with more than 982,000 of them -- just over 89 percent -- traveling by highway, a 4 percent increase from 2011.

With so many people on the road, the chances of meeting up with an impaired driver is higher. The Governor's Office of Highway Safety, which launched its annual summer crackdown on drunk driving late last month, cites some sobering statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In 2010, 392 people lost their lives on U.S. roadways during the Independence Day holiday period. Of those deaths, 39 percent -- nearly two out of every five -- were from crashes involving at least one driver whose blood alcohol concentration was .08 or higher. Young people are not immune from the danger. Of all Fourth of July impaired driving fatalities in 2010, 46 percent were between the ages of 18 and 34.

Law enforcement will be out in force through Sunday, which means the chances of you getting caught drunk driving will go up as well. And nothing takes the sparkle out of a holiday celebration like a mug shot at the jail and prospects of a hefty fine.

So, we hope everyone will enjoy the day tomorrow -- and the rest of the week for those fortunate enough to be taking some off from the daily grind. If alcohol's part of your celebration and you have to travel, make sure you have a designated driver or a safe ride home.

Take pride in a nation that we are fortunate to live in. But also, take responsibility.