Lehigh Valley task force wants you to stay safe this July 4th with less drinking, more buckling up

By Danielle Nelson

*This story is posted on The Express Times website.

Fire Chief

Allentown police Capt. William Reinik speaks as part of the Lehigh Valley DUI/Highway Safety Task Force press conference July 2, 2014, at the East Side Fire Station in Allentown to advocate safety involving the three b’s this Fourth of July holiday—booze, belts and burns. (Sue Beyer)


Lehigh Valley law enforcement officials have booze, belts and burns on their minds this weekend.

Specifically, they want you to drink only in moderation, wear your seat belt and stay safe around hot grills and fireworks.

The Lehigh Valley DUI/Highway Safety Task Force joined fire officials and other authorities in Allentown on Wednesday at the East Side Fire Station in Allentown to promote safety ahead of the holiday weekend.

The task force urges residents to avoid aggressive and impaired driving. Bulked-up state police patrols will conduct checkpoints on Pennsylvania highways through Sunday. George Geisler, of the Pennsylvania DUI Association, said they’ll focus on drug-impaired drivers.

“Drugged driving is a crime just like drunk driving,” he said.

Geisler said 128 police drug recognition experts will accompany officers on highways to spot drug-impaired drivers.

“Most importantly, don’t mix alcohol and drugs of any kind together … because mixing alcohol and drugs is a deadly cocktail,” Geisler said.

Bethlehem Police Lt. Jeremy Alleshouse advised motorists to buckle up. Passengers cannot control the vehicle and the cars around them, but they “have absolute control over putting on that seat belt,” he said.

Children must remain in rear-facing car seats until the age of 2 or until they meet height and weight requirements, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association.

Then they move up to a forward-facing child safety seat until they’re big enough for a belt-positioning booster seat, where they must stay in until they’re 4 feet 9 inches tall. All children under 13 must remain in the back seat.

The task force advises picnickers to stay away from grills. Allentown fire Capt. John Christopher said residents should keep grills about 10 feet from any surface.

Fireworks except for sparklers and snakes are illegal in Pennsylvania without a permit.

Christopher said one of the main reasons why fireworks displays are closely regulated in cities is because of the concentration of homes.

“We have a lot of row homes and some of these homes are 100 years old and they are connected to each other,” Christopher said. “So if one goes, you can lose the whole row. So Allentown is very restrictive.”

If you want a fireworks permit, you need insurance. You must have your property inspected by the fire marshal and have a cleanup crew for the fallen debris. The requirements are pretty stiff in Allentown, Christopher said.

“Just leave it to the professionals,” he said.

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