There are many celebrations going on in the month of December with the holidays and all that goes with them. Here’s one celebration you might not know about. December is National Impaired Driving Prevention Month or to spell it out more clearly, National Drunk and Drugged Driving Prevention Month. Part of any prevention month is making people aware of the scope of the problem in the first place.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that every day in the United States, about 30 people die in motor vehicle accidents involving an alcohol-impaired driver. That’s one death every 51 minutes.
The CDC goes on to tell us that drugs other than alcohol, such as marijuana and cocaine, are involved in about 18 percent of motor vehicle deaths. Often, these drugs are used along with alcohol.1 This is called “poly use.” Don’t be fooled. Legal, over-the-counter and prescription medicines can also cause a person to become impaired in some cases. If your medication makes you feel drowsy or “out of it,” don’t pick up the keys.
There’s some good news in the pipeline, though. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administrated announced that in 2014, the number of deaths involving alcohol-impaired drivers dropped below 10,000 for the first time since 2011. Still, there were 9,967 alcohol-related fatalities, accounting for 31 percent of all traffic fatalities in 2014. Further, overall traffic deaths are up 8.1 percent so far in 2015, with the holiday season yet to be included.
It’s especially appropriate to focus on drinking and driving during this time of year. There is traditionally a spike in alcohol-related motor vehicle accidents during the holidays, as many of us celebrate the season a little too much.
How much is too much? Consider this. The standard drink is defined as 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits. What you drink is not what’s important. It’s how much you drink over time that determines if you become impaired, and the average person can break down about one alcoholic drink per hour.3 Even if you pace yourself, if you keep drinking, it’s unlikely you’ll keep up.
Are you still reading after having all these numbers thrown at you? I hope so because here’s where you get some tips to keep you or a friend or loved one from becoming one of those statistics in next year’s count. Here are some ideas for staying safe:
- Before you go out, designate a non-drinking driver to transport you and your friends for the night.
- Also, set a limit on how many drinks you are going to have, and stick to the plan.
- If you’re drinking alcohol, alternate those drinks with soda, juice or water.
- Eat food while you’re drinking.
- Don’t mix over-the-counter, prescription medications or other drugs with alcohol. Many OTC and prescription medications react with alcohol and can leave you impaired.
- If you’re hosting a party and plan to make a punch with alcohol, use fruit juice instead of carbonated soda as a mixer. Carbonation helps the alcohol absorb into the bloodstream faster.
- If you’re out and drinking, don’t drive. Ask a family member or friend to give you a ride or call a taxi.
- Don’t let your friends drive impaired, either. If they’ve been drinking and shouldn’t drive, take their keys away.
- If you see an impaired driver on the road, report it. You could be saving someone’s life.
The bottom line is this: If you’re feeling the effects of alcohol or drugs, forget about driving. Even if you think you feel fine, if you’ve been drinking, don’t drive. It’s as simple as that!