By Nathan Pfau, Army Flier Staff WriterDecember 8, 2016
FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- The holiday season is a time where family and friends gather to enjoy one of the most festive times of the year, but that holiday cheer can be marred by one deadly mistake -- driving under the influence.
In 2014, nearly 10,000 people were killed in alcohol-related automobile accidents, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and Fort Rucker is doing what it can to make people aware of the dangers of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, said Rebecca O'Brien, Army Substance Abuse Program drug and alcohol prevention coordinator.
During the month of December, which is National Drunk and Drugged Driving Prevention Month, O'Brien wants to remind people to "Don't Wreck the Holidays" with potentially deadly decisions.
"The holidays can be very stressful, and alcohol is the No. 1 issue in the Army and also on college campuses across the country, so it hits a lot of people," said the ASAP coordinator. "If you're a mother, a father, a sibling or spouse, or whether you're a drinker or not, everyone is affected by choices made with respect to alcohol.
"The holiday season is the highest time of the year for parties, family interactions, and events and celebrations where alcohol is involved and many people are out of their norm," she said. "There are a lot of DUIs around this time of year and this is a prominent time of year for an ugly problem with innocent intentions."
O'Brien said people should always make a plan before they decide to drink -- either designate a driver or be the designated river. People tend to have the misconception that they are capable to adapt when it comes to drinking and driving, but they can't and the decision to drive if they've been drinking should always be no.
One way people can avoid drinking and driving is by providing mocktails, or cocktails that don't contain any alcohol, said O'Brien. She will host a demonstration during Holiday Mocktails! at Lyster Army Health Clinic's Lifespace Center Dec. 8 from 1-3 p.m.
"This event is a fun event that would welcome people and open them to a message they've heard a million times about a problem they know exists but do not think applies to them, but it does," she said. "Our mocktail party is an option for people who are not drinkers or if they have people who attend their parties who are non-drinkers. It's not just for the designated driver.
"This is the deadliest time of the year with regards to alcohol," said the prevention coordinator. "We've also seen in the clinic an increase in prescription drug use, and that coupled with alcohol, without any intent, simply because people aren't aware. We want people to be aware of mixing medications with alcohol."
The mocktail event is a great way to help people become aware of the dangers of not only drinking, but mixing medication with alcohol, as well, she said.
Lorita Baughman, LAHC patient educator, works alongside primary care managers to take care of patients' needs, and said the mocktails event was a good way to interact with people and help them make healthier, smarter life choices.
"When patients are here, they don't leave here until I've covered every aspect of their needs," she said. "We call it the Life Space Center because the goal is to get into the patient's life space -- to help them determine whatever their needs and goals are to become healthier -- and one of the things we wanted to ensure was that people aren't mixing alcohol and medicine because a lot of the medication people take they aren't allowed to have with alcohol."
The overall goal is to make sure people stay safe throughout the holiday season and make the right choices, added O'Brien.