Sober Thoughts About Drinking and Driving During the Holidays
By Dean I. Weitzman, Esq. on November 27th, 2015
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.
Just in time for the upcoming holiday activities, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT), the Pennsylvania State Police and the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board recently kicked off their “Operation Safe Holiday” campaign to encourage safe driving through the holiday season. This year the organizations also announced the SaferRide app, which lets users call a taxi or other contact for a ride using their mobile phones.
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 2014, there were 4,311 crashes and 39 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 4,184 crashes and 41 fatalities.
“In 2014 alone, there were 440 fatal crashes involving unbuckled occupants throughout the commonwealth,” Acting State Police Commissioner Tyree C. Blocker, said in a statement. “This is just one example of how deaths from being unbuckled or driving impaired are, in many cases, preventable.”
The free SaferRide app can be downloaded from Google Play or the iTunes Store for Android and Apple devices, and gives users three options – to review and call taxi services available in the area, to call a contact who is entered into the app in advance, and to view a map of the user’s location. The SaferRide app was developed by the U.S. Department of Transportation and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to helps individuals get a safe ride home after drinking.
“Unfortunately, the holiday season turns tragic for many families due to crashes and deaths on our roadways,” PennDOT Secretary Leslie S. Richards said in a statement. “While we’re partnering with law enforcement and other safety partners, we urge the public to do their part to keep the season safe – always buckle up and never drive impaired.”
Meanwhile during “Operation Safe Holiday,” the commonwealth’s law enforcement agencies statewide will focus on nighttime seat-belt use and impaired driving. Police will conduct sobriety checkpoints, roving patrols and regular traffic safety patrols from November 28 through the New Year’s holiday to crack down on drivers impaired by drugs or alcohol.
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.
In 2014, during the Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s holidays, 1,039 of the statewide crashes involved a driver impaired by drugs or alcohol, with 35 fatalities in those crashes, according to PennDOT. In that same period, there were 937 crashes with unbuckled occupants, with 32 fatalities in those crashes.
The “Operation Safe Holiday” and SaferRide app are a good start by our state agencies to increase awareness of the dangers of drinking and driving, but ultimately 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.
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