There’s a reason that police departments around the country start cracking down on drunk drivers at this time of year. The holiday season is a time of celebration and cheer and lots of parties with lots of alcohol. That means more drunk and impaired drivers on the road increasing the risk of accidents, injuries, and even fatalities.
National Impaired Driving Prevention Month is designed to combat this trend. On December 1st, President Obama issued a proclamation calling on Americans to act responsibly to prevent the seasonal rise in accidents:
“Impaired driving puts drivers, passengers, and pedestrians at risk, and each year it claims the lives of thousands of Americans. During National Impaired Driving Prevention Month, we recommit to preventing these incidents by acting responsibly and by promoting responsible behavior in those around us. Together, we can enhance public safety and work to ensure a happy, healthy life for all our people.”
In the past the focus was on drunk driving, and groups like MADD and SADD led the way in calling attention to the problem and lobbying for changes in laws across the country. However, impaired driving is not limited to alcohol. The use of pills and other drugs also lead to impaired driving and this year the proclamation included cell phone use as a serious impairment and reminds citizens that deaths from distracted driving are also a matter of national importance.
Whether alcohol, drugs, or distractions are the cause, the costs of impaired driving are astounding:
- Over 10,000 people die every year in alcohol-impaired crashes. That’s one death every 51 minutes.
- Financially, these crashes, whether there is a fatality or not, cost more than $37 billion every year.
- In 2013 alone, over 424,000 people were injured in crashes involving distracted drivers, with over 3,000 individuals killed in those accidents.
There are simple steps you can take to prevent impaired driving and to encourage others to do the same.
- Always have a designated driver or pre-arrange for a taxi or Uber lift home.
- Make sure your friends and family do the same.
- If necessary, take the keys away from any impaired driver at a party or social event.
Commit to no cell phone use while driving and impose penalties on any teen drivers in your family.
- Use seat belts when you drive and insist that all passengers do the same.
- Be respectful if you encounter a sobriety check, especially during the “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over Campaign” that will run from December 16th – January 1st.
- Support any local “free ride” program on New Year’s Eve or other holiday by sharing details on social media and keeping the number stored in your phone before you head out to a New Year’s celebration.
If we all commit to driving sober, to stay alert on the road, and to avoid distractions while driving, impaired driving will become a problem of the past.