The Missouri State Highway Patrol is encouraging travelers to make smart choices for a safe July Fourth holiday.

Many people will travel during the holiday to enjoy a wide variety of recreational opportunities in the state.

During the 30-hour counting period in 2018, the Patrol says four people were killed and 220 injured in Missouri over the holiday in 437 traffic crashes. Over the 2018 July Fourth holiday, troopers arrested 40 people for driving while intoxicated.

The 2019 counting period for the July Fourth holiday begins at 6:00 p.m., Wednesday, July 3 - 11:59 p.m., Sunday, July 7.

The Highway Patrol will be participating in Operation C.A.R.E. (Crash Awareness & Reduction Effort) during the holiday weekend. In addition, a 2019 Independence Day DWI Enforcement operation will be in effect during the long weekend. Troopers will strictly enforce statutes addressing driving while intoxicated, underage drinking, possession of intoxicating liquor by a minor, and intoxication by a minor.

MSHP says during the holiday weekend, all available officers will be patrolling Missouri’s roadways enforcing traffic laws in addition to being available to assist motorists.

The Patrol is reminding drivers that statutes direct motorists to drive with the highest degree of care, urging everyone to follow all traffic laws. Never drink and drive, and always use a seat belt!

Motorists who need assistance or who witness criminal activity while traveling on roadways or waterways can contact the nearest Highway Patrol troop headquarters by calling the Emergency Report Line at 1-800-525-5555 or *55 on a cellular phone. Motorists can also call 1-888-275-6636 to check for road construction along their travel route.

MSHP additionally reminds the public that the Fourth of July holiday is one of the busiest boating holidays of the year. Many waterways in Missouri are experiencing high water conditions, so boaters need to remain aware of that.

“Boat wakes may cause additional damage or unnecessary erosion to flood affected properties,” said Colonel Eric T Olson. “High water often creates additional debris in the water, so boaters should maintain a proper lookout for potential hazards.”

In 2018, there were four boating crashes, which included two injuries and no fatalities. Three people drowned during last year's July Fourth holiday. Troopers made five boating while intoxicated arrests in 2018.

Troopers will be working on the state’s waterways to enforce Missouri’s boating laws and assist where needed. Boaters are asked to do their part by remaining alert for other boats and swimmers, and being courteous on the water. With more boats on the water, it is even more important to pay attention when operating your vessel. Boaters need to be aware that it is illegal to discharge fireworks from a vessel. Leave all fireworks in a safe place on shore.

The Patrol offers these tips for boating safety:
· Distractions and alcohol consumption slow reaction time.
· Pay attention to other boats and watercraft.
· Make boating maneuvers early and deliberately when encountering other vessels.
· Be responsible with your wake.

The many firework displays after dark attract many more boaters at night. At night, remember to:
· Check your vessel’s navigation lights before heading out, and be sure to have spare bulbs on board.
· Avoid overloading your boat with too many passengers. This can cause the boat to become swamped and affect the handling of the boat.
· Observe Missouri’s nighttime speed limit of 30 miles per hour on the water.
· Slow down and take your time. Nighttime crashes tend to involve more serious injuries and damage, due to the lack of visibility.

"July Fourth weekend is a time to appreciate the opportunities and freedom we enjoy in this country,” said Col. Olson. “As you gather with friends and family, be safe. Use a seat belt or a life jacket when you’re on the road or water. Please stay alert and obey the law, and should you include alcohol in your July Fourth celebration, designate a sober operator."