Impaired Driving Prevention: Play it Safe on the Road During the Holidays

As we approach the busy holiday season when more people are on the road, it’s important to know that during this time there are also more impaired drivers on the road. According to The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA),

“With an increase in holiday parties and festivities, the month of December can be a dangerous time of year for drunk-driving fatalities. In fact, with marijuana use and drugged driving on the rise across the country, it is important to keep watch for all forms of impaired driving. With NHTSA’s support, State and local law enforcement agencies across the nation are stepping up enforcement to put an end to all forms of impaired driving, showing zero tolerance in an effort to save lives.”

In 2020, 12.6 million people in the United States (ages 16 and older) drove after using illicit drugs. In 2019, 24% of the traffic fatalities in Georgia were related to drunk driving. Most of these deaths could have been prevented if someone had done something to keep impaired drivers off the road. Because of the severity of this issue, December is National Impaired Driving Prevention Month, also called National Drunk and Drugged Driving (3D) Prevention Month, which raises awareness around impaired driving and what we can do to help.

While drunk driving has decreased somewhat in recent years, well over 11,000 people still die annually in alcohol-impaired driving crashes – that’s one every 45 minutes. But wait, there’s more to the story. Research is showing that alcohol is not the only problem on the road. According to a 2019 national study, 28.7 million people aged 16 or older drove under the influence of alcohol in the past year and 13.6 million drove under the influence of illicit drugs.

Young drivers are particularly at risk for being impacted by drunk and drugged driving. Vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death among teenagers. When you combine teens’ inexperience at driving with the use of substances that have a damaging impact on the brain, the results can be tragic.

There are many things we can do to reduce impaired driving. Here are some strategies that everyone can participate in:

  • Never allow alcohol to be provided or served to minors. It’s against the law, and it’s dangerous.
  • If you’re planning an adult party or social event, make sure there are plenty of non-alcohol beverages provided and that they’re prominently displayed.
  • If alcohol is going to be provided, encourage – or insist – that designated drivers be identified early on. Choosing the “less drunk” person to drive at the end of the night is NOT the same thing!
  • Provide lots of protein and high carbohydrate food and snacks, but steer clear of salty ones that make people want to drink more. It’s best to have guests eat first so they’re not drinking on an empty stomach.
  • If you’re an adult, and you’re thinking about drinking, be aware that there are times when you are more vulnerable to alcohol impairment. If you’ve been feeling sick or rundown, you’re taking medicine that increase impairment when mixed with alcohol, or you haven’t eaten, you may want to reconsider drinking for the time being. If you’re pregnant or need to operate a car or other heavy equipment, choose not to drink at all.
  • NEVER drive under the influence of alcohol or other drugs and don’t get into a car being driven by someone who is. Arranging for alternative transportation may save your life.
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