Four Die in Alcohol-Related, Head-On Crash in Ohio – A Stark Reminder to Drive Safely This Holiday Season

The holidays are here and sadly, alcohol-related vehicle accidents, fueled by holiday parties where drivers drink too much and then get behind the wheel, are already taking their deadly toll on America’s roadways.

Four people were killed Dec. 23 in Cincinnati, Ohio, “when a minivan carrying a family leaving a Christmas party went the wrong way on a southwestern Ohio highway and hit another minivan whose driver and family were going to see grandparents for the holidays,” according to a story by The Associated Press. “The 2:30 a.m. head-on collision on Interstate 75 near Franklin took the lives of three adults and a 7-year-old boy and critically injured two other children, said Ohio State Patrol Sgt. Stan Jordan.”

The 40-year-old driver of the minivan who allegedly caused the deadly crash had turned his minivan around on the highway and started driving the wrong way, the story reported. Alcohol was a suspected factor, police said. “Investigators smelled liquor in the minivan that was going the wrong way and found a bottle of alcohol in the vehicle,” Jordan told the AP.

The driver of the first minivan was operating the vehicle while traveling with his two children. The driver was killed in the crash, along with his seven-year-old son, according to the AP.

Also killed were a 31- and 37-year-old Madisonville, Tenn., couple who were driving their four children, ages eight to 18, to western Ohio to visit the children’s grandparents for the holidays, the story reported. Two of the couple’s four children were hospitalized in critical condition after the crash.

Sadly, we often read of crashes like this, where alcohol is involved, with tragic consequences. And it doesn’t have to happen.

Drinking and driving never mix, especially during the holidays when we are reminded over and over again to enjoy ourselves, but to drink responsibly. It’s the time of year when we are inundated with public service messages about the dangers of drinking and driving, and when we see an uptick in the number of holiday sobriety checks on area roads.

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

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

Here in Pennsylvania, the state Department of Transportation, PennDOT, recently kicked off just such an effort as part of its “Operation Safe Holiday” campaign to encourage safe driving through the holiday season.

The holiday season, from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, continues to be the leading time period for traffic crashes in the state, PennDOT reported. In 2011, there were 4,235 crashes and 49 fatalities last year in the state during the Thanksgiving travel period, which includes the weekends before and after the holiday. During the Christmas and New Year travel periods, there were a combined 1,994 crashes and 19 fatalities.

Drivers are encouraged to have a “designated driver” who doesn’t consume alcohol and can drive the rest of their party home after a social gathering, or to take a taxi and leave the driving to a sober and professional vehicle operator.

Drivers in some communities around the nation, including in Morris, Essex and Union counties in New Jersey, can even call their local American Automobile Association office to arrange a free towing service for impaired drivers to get them home safely (Pennsylvania does not have such a service) on Christmas or New Year’s Eve.

Other communities across the nations, including in Montgomery and Bucks counties here in Pennsylvania, offer programs where impaired drivers can pay a fee, typically $20 plus a mileage charge, to get a ride home.

Some 84.4 million Americans will travel by automobile on the nation’s roadways during the winter holiday season between Dec. 22 to Jan. 1, 2013, according to AAA, which is a 1.6 percent increase from last year.

Across the United States, there were 9,878 drunk driving fatalities in 2011, the last year in which there are complete statistics, according to new National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) data released recently.

That’s actually big news, because its the first time drunk driving fatalities have fallen below 10,000 for one year in the U.S. since statistics began to be collected, according to the non-profit group, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). “Not only did the number of people killed in drunk driving crashes in 2011 (9,878) drop by 2.5 percent from the number killed in 2010 (10,136), but this decline outpaced the 1.9 percent decrease in overall highway deaths,” according to MADD.

That’s good news, and hopefully means that eventually, the tragedy that just took four lives in Cincinnati doesn’t have to happen again.

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 to ensure that none of their customers drinks so much that they are visibly intoxicated and a danger to others on the roads.

In addition, 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.

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.

So have a Merry Christmas, a Happy Kwanzaa and a Happy New Year, from all of the attorneys and staff members at MyPhillyLawyer.

And remember, we here at MyPhillyLawyer stand ready to assist you with your legal case if you or a loved one is ever seriously injured in any kind of accident anywhere in the United States. We pledge to make sure that you and your family get the compassionate, dogged and experienced legal representation that you deserve and expect from a professional legal team.

Call MyPhillyLawyer at 215-227-2727 or toll-free at 1-866-920-0352 anytime and our experienced, aggressive team of attorneys and support staff will be there for you and your family every step of the way as we manage your case through the legal system.

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