The end of the year is always a festive time, with bright and cheerful decorations, family gatherings and, for many, a slate of holiday parties and events to attend.
December is also a month when law enforcement sees a rise in the number of people driving while impaired by alcohol, drugs or a combination of the two.
National Impaired Driving Prevention Month, held every December for almost 40 years, helps raise awareness about the dangers of driving while under the influence of any intoxicating substance.
In 2018, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) logged 10,511 drunk-driving crashes. During the Christmas and New Year period alone, there were 285 drunk-driving fatalities.
Driving while under the influence of drugs is also against the law and equally as dangerous. According to NHTSA, 45 percent of all vehicle-related fatalities involved drugs in 2017.
“The pain caused by one person’s choice to drive impaired is often permanent. Yet every drunk driving death and injury is preventable,” Helen Witty, national president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) said in a statement about national impaired driving prevention month.
Ways to Prevent Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol or Drugs
Utah was the first state in the country to decrease the blood alcohol concentration limit for driving under the influence from .10% to .08%, where it is today for all other states in the U.S. In due time, other states will follow Utah’s lead once again.
Admittedly, it is becoming more difficult to drink and drive, and the current legal threshold makes it almost impossible to have more than one or two drinks to be considered sober enough to drive. This is actually a good thing to prevent impaired driving accidents.
Here are some simple steps that anyone can take to prevent tragedies from driving under the influence or while impaired:
- If you plan to drink or do drugs, do not drive at any point
- Do not get into a vehicle with anyone that’s been drinking or taking drugs
- If you accidentally overindulge on alcohol at a party, ask the host if they will call a taxi or ride share service for you, or do it yourself
- Make sure to eat dinner before drinking alcohol because a full stomach helps to absorb alcohol and lessen the effects
- Party hosts can help their guests by providing food at the party, keeping an eye out for any impaired guests and even providing a couch for someone to sleep overnight, if necessary
- If going out in a group, designate one person who won’t be drinking as the driver for the evening
- Plan on using only ride-shares or taxis to go from one destination to another
The Consequences of Impaired Driving
Even if someone who is driving while under the influence avoids an accident, the chances of being pulled over and arrested are high. Law enforcement increases their presence on the roads during December in an effort to prevent unnecessary crashes, injuries and DUI fatalities.
Aside from the personal and professional fallout of getting a DUI, it can be incredibly expensive, running into the tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees and a lasting, permanent increase in the cost of car insurance.
There might be another conversation that needs to be had about anyone who drives while under the influence. Risky behaviors like impaired driving are not just dangerous for the person driving, but also everyone else on the road.
Regularly driving impaired by drugs or alcohol may be a sign that someone is struggling with substance abuse issues.
Continuing to use drugs and alcohol and ignoring the negative consequences that result from this behavior is often a symptom of addiction. Getting treatment for substance abuse, especially early on, can help a person live a long life in recovery and avoid painful mistakes that can linger for a lifetime.
This December, make the choice to not drive while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or go one step further and be the person that others can depend on for a safe, sober ride home.