Fort Leonard Wood service members, families and friends will come together July 4 to commemorate the United States adoption of the Declaration of Independence 241 years ago.

In this time-honored tradition, where picnics, family gatherings, reunions, parties and fireworks have all become part of celebrating the nation’s independence, it is important to be safe and to remember that fireworks are not permitted on Fort Leonard Wood.

According to the Missouri Department of Public Safety, fireworks and alcohol are a bad mix.

On its website,, the department specifically warns the public “Don’t use fireworks while consuming alcohol,” urging celebrants to choose a “designated shooter” at gatherings — or preferably skipping shooting off your own fireworks altogether and attending a public fireworks display put on by trained professionals.

Another bad mix is drinking and driving.

This Independence Day weekend, whether you’re hosting a celebration or heading out to an event, keep safety in mind and avoid unnecessary risks — especially when it comes to alcohol.

Drinking and driving is extremely dangerous, and the risks involved not only endanger the lives of drivers, passengers and bystanders, but also have life-changing consequences that can impact careers, Families and finances.

When it comes to alcohol, the No. 1 recommendation by the U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center, the Centers for Disease Control and other federal agencies is to make a plan, starting with this: Designate a driver for your unit or group before you head out.

Designated drivers are non-drinking drivers who agree to stay sober so they can safely drive their friends, coworkers or fellow service members to a celebration or between venues and safely deliver them home.

For service members, the USACRC recommends starting a designated-driver program for each unit.

Here are some other recommendations, tips and ways to plan ahead:

  • If you’re alone and have been drinking, get a ride home with a sober driver;
  • If you don’t have a sober friend or designated driver available, call a taxi. Carry extra money for a cab.
  • Don’t let your friends drive impaired. Make sure they get a ride with a sober driver or call a taxi for them.
  • Also, don’t be afraid to hide their car keys — even if they get angry with you.

Be a responsible host.

If you’re hosting an event where alcohol is served:

  • Remind your guests to plan ahead and choose a designated driver in advance.
  • Responsible hosts cater to designated drivers. So, be sure to offer them a variety of alcohol-free beverages, plenty of good food and your thanks — because they are literally acting as the “life” of the party.
  • Make sure all guests leave with a sober driver.
  • If you can’t find a sober driver for an impaired guest, suggest they sleep over.
  • If all else fails, and an impaired person insists on leaving or becomes belligerent when you try to assist them, call law enforcement. Your guest will very likely survive an arrest or a night in jail – the same can’t be said if they get behind the wheel.
  • Never, ever serve alcohol to minors.

Know the consequences.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a service member, civilian employee, contractor or Family member, if you live or work on Fort Leonard Wood, drinking and driving can have serious consequences whether an incident or arrest happens on post or outside the gate.

Under Fort Leonard Wood Regulation 190-5, on-post driving privileges can be immediately suspended for drivers found to have a blood-alcohol content of .08 percent when operating personal vehicles or .04 percent if operating a commercial vehicle on post — or for violating Missouri law, which has the same limits off post.

You can check out the complete version of Regulation 190-5 online at

According to the USACRC, service members can potentially face Article 15 penalties and may be tried by court martial under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the harshest penalties being the forfeiture of all pay and allowances, a dishonorable discharge and confinement.

In Missouri, a conviction for Driving While Intoxicated and Driving Under the Influence of drugs or other substances can mean up to 6 months’ imprisonment, a $500 fine and court-ordered alcohol treatment and addiction programs.

You can also lose your license to drive from 90 days for a first offense and up to 10 years for subsequent offenses.

In addition to the loss of actual freedom, DWI/DUI convictions can also include a loss of financial freedom. Court costs, attorney’s fees, increased insurance costs, bond payments and the license reinstatement process are expensive.

According to the Missouri State Highway Patrol, the costs associated with a single DWI conviction — that’s simply getting pulled over with a BAC of .08 percent or higher — average about $3,000.

The USACRC estimates the total costs of a conviction between $5,000 and $20,000, depending on the location of the arrest and the circumstances involved.

(Editor’s note: Information also provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Missouri Department of Revenue and Mothers Against Drunk Driving.)