December brings the holidays – good times with family and friends, good food and seasonal parties, including many occasions where alcohol is served and drunk driving becomes an issue. While it may be something we don’t want to worry about, impaired driving is a real concern with potentially serious and devastating outcomes.

Although it is a year-round concern, the holidays bring a tragic increase in the incidence of impaired driving. Therefore, December has been recognized as “National Drunk and Drugged Driving Prevention Month.”

Did you know?

  • An alcohol-related motor vehicle crash kills someone in the United States every 30 minutes and non-fatally injures someone every two minutes (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)).
  • In 2002, an estimated 17,419 people died in alcohol-related crashes. That’s 41 percent of the year’s total traffic deaths (NHTSA).
  • Approximately 1.4 million drivers were arrested in 2001 for driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics. This is an arrest rate of one for every 137 licensed drivers in the United States.

Ask yourself these questions:

Have you ever awakened after a night of drinking and not remembered how you got home, only to realize you drove yourself? Or, do you remember driving home, but you realize the next morning that you should not have driven the night before and you know you are lucky to be alive? Too many American adults have found themselves answering yes to these questions.

There are alternatives to driving home impaired/drunk. Rather than go to a party and tell yourself you “will be careful” or “only have a few,” it is better to have an alternate plan for the end of the evening so there is no temptation to get behind the wheel, believing that you are safe to drive home. A few alternatives to driving impaired include:

  • Designate a sober driver
  • Call a taxi cab
  • Stay the night where you are

If you are going to be hosting a holiday party or family gathering, there are some things you can do to help as well:

  • Provide non-alcoholic beverages
  • If serving alcohol, make sure you provide your guests with enough food throughout the event, some of which should be filling and hearty
  • Have cards with taxi company phone numbers easily accessible
  • Invite all guests to spend the night
  • Stop serving alcohol a few hours before the party is slated to end

While having a couple of drinks and getting behind the wheel may not seem like a big deal, it can turn into a big expense. Impairment starts with the first drink. That last drink can cost you thousands of dollars in:

  • Vehicle towing and storage fees
  • Increase in car insurance premiums
  • Court/attorney fees
  • DUI/OWI class fees
  • Jail time
  • Loss of driver’s license
  • Missed work days

Or it could be priceless – the loss of your life or someone else’s.

As we celebrate the joyous holiday season, we can all help save lives by preventing impaired driving.

More information on National Drunk and Drugged Driving (3D) Prevention Month is available at the National Commission Against Drunk Driving and the Centers for Disease Control.