The winter holiday season is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year, filled with merriment and festivity. But it is also the most dangerous season on the roads, as more people are driving, drinking socially and choosing to get behind the wheel when they are impaired.
According to Drivers Ed, 25% of adults report drinking more during the six weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. This period sees an estimated 25,000 injuries from alcohol-related crashes each year and 40% of highway deaths are alcohol-related, according to the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In 2019, 390 people lost their lives in alcohol-related crashes during this period.
While drunk driving has decreased over the last 40 years, on average, 28 people still lose their lives in alcohol-related crashes every day, with increases during holiday periods. Plus, alcohol is not the only substance causing driver impairment. In recent years, according to NHTSA, there has been a sharp rise in weekend nigh-time drivers who tested positive for marijuana, which is known to slow reaction time, impair judgment of distance and decrease driver coordination.
All too often, drivers don’t recognize when they are impaired and overestimate their ability to drive under the influence. They leave a holiday party feeling confident that the water, food or coffee they consumed before getting in their vehicle sobered them up. But they are putting their own lives and the lives of others at risk.
The best way to avoid becoming a holiday statistic is to NEVER DRINK OR USE DRUGS AND DRIVE. PERIOD.
Unfortunately, the roads are especially dangerous during the holiday season, even if you are not drinking and driving. So, we recommend that you take some basic precautions to avoid becoming the victim of a drunk driving accident:
- Don’t ride with an impaired driver, ever. In 2020, 31% of people who died in alcohol-related car crashes were passengers. Don’t take the chance — call a taxi or rideshare for both you and the driver.
- Avoid late-night travel. After midnight is the most dangerous time to be on the roads. If you are leaving an event late, consider stopping for the night at a hotel or rest area.
- Plan ahead. Enjoy holiday parties, but make sure in advance that you know how you are going to get home with a designated, sober driver. If you stay sober, consider road conditions and plan your arrival and departure times so you can take your time and drive safely.
- Keep an eye on the weather. Drunk drivers are a menace on the road at the best of times and become even more lethal when they are dealing with wintery weather. Stay home or stay where you are if weather conditions decline.
- Buckle up. Your seatbelt is your best defense against serious injury or death if you are involved in an incident with an impaired driver.
- Check your car for maintenance issues. If you plan to do a lot of traveling over the holidays, know that highway shoulders for emergency pull-offs are extremely dangerous, especially at night and when impaired drivers are more likely to be on the roads. Before a long trip, get your car checked out and winterized.
- Be well-rested. Defensive driving is essential when sharing the road with drunk drivers. Leave a gathering before you are too tired to drive. It is important to remain alert.
We can all do our part to ensure that the holiday season remains as wonderful as it should. Alcohol- and drug-related accidents are avoidable. Make sure you don’t drink or use drugs and drive and stop your friends and loved ones from getting behind the wheel if they aren’t sober.