T’is the season NOT to be driving drunk

With the December holidays in full swing, from Hanukkah to Kwanzaa to Christmas to New Year’s Eve,  it’s a perfect time for us all to remember and carefully consider the dangers of  drinking and driving as we celebrate family, friends and festive events.

According to the activist group Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), last year there were 11,773 fatalities nationally involving a driver with an illegal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or greater.  That’s 11,773 too many drunk driving deaths.  And with this year’s holidays now upon us, according to MADD, the dangers caused by drunk drivers increases because vehicle travel is heavier on the roadways and drunk driving increases. In 2007, between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, 1,495 people were killed nationally by drunk drivers, according to MADD.  In 2006, 1,566 people were killed.

sobriety checkpoint sign

Sobriety checkpoints will be set up across the nation this holiday season to prevent drunk driving. Image credit: © iStockphoto.com/sdominick

We all are responsible, starting with each of us individually, to choose not to consume alcoholic beverages and then hop into our vehicles and drive when our driving skills are impaired.

Bartenders, waiters, waitresses and restaurant and club owners are also responsible through liquor liability laws and dram shop liability to  ensure that none of their customers drinks so much that they are visibly intoxicated and a danger to others on the roads.  In Pennsylvania, and in other states, there are training programs for bartenders and wait staffs so that they learn when and how to stop customers who are drinking too much.  The Pennsylvania Liquor Control  Board (LCB) offers its  Responsible Alcohol  Management Program (RAMP), which offers a full range of important training.

That’s a good thing, but it doesn’t end there.

We are all stewards of this responsibility if we hold parties and serve alcohol, or if we attend parties where alcohol is being served.  You can be sued and held responsible for damages if someone is at your gala, drinks too much, drives away and is involved in a vehicle accident. You have to know to say no to your friends and loved ones if they party too much.  If someone is visibly intoxicated, don’t let them drive away on their own.  Get them in a taxicab or find them a ride with someone who has not been drinking. Let them sleep in your spare room. Do whatever it takes to prevent a tragedy.

Think of it this way — if your teen-aged son or daughter is out driving this holiday season, would you rather not allow drunk drivers to be out there on the streets with them, sharing the roads and plowing into them? That’s one reason why we all have to be vigilant for each other.  It doesn’t always happen to other families.  Such tragedies have perhaps happened to someone in your family, or a friend’s family. No more.

Starting tomorrow, states across the nation will begin stepping up their holiday drunk driving enforcement efforts as the national Governors Highway Safety Association joins the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Office of National Drug Control Policy and state and local law enforcement agencies to launch an extensive holiday drunk driving crackdown across the nation through Jan. 3, 2010. Here in Pennsylvania, police departments will be conducting increased DUI enforcement as part of the Operation Safe Holiday campaign.  More than 600 municipal police and all State Police Troops are expected to participate, according to the group.  Last year during the holiday crackdown, 262 DUI citations were written.

Make their work easier — don’t drink and drive.  Don’t become one of the statistics.  Don’t hurt or kill someone else or someone you love by driving drunk and getting into a serious accident.

Have a great time this holiday season, but let’s be responsible and careful out there.