The holiday season in Italy is upon us. It's a time of Christmas markets, traveling, parties, and enjoying all of what the season has to offer. December is also National Drunk and Drugged Driving Prevention Month (3D Month). The USAG Italy Army Substance Abuse Program wants to take this opportunity to encourage all personnel to protect what they have earned by having a plan in place and never getting behind the wheel while impaired by drugs or alcohol.

Since 1981, every president of the United States has proclaimed December "National Drunk and Drugged Driving (3D) Prevention Month" to help underscore the public's commitment to preventing impaired driving and promoting the use of designated drivers and sober ride programs. The month of December and the New Year's Eve holiday are also often highlighted by significant increases in law enforcement efforts to combat impaired driving such as the use of sobriety checkpoints and saturation patrols.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 29 people die in the United States every day in crashes that involve an alcohol-impaired driver. A survey conducted by The National Institute on Drug Abuse revealed that over 32 million people drove while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Other studies have shown that drivers with THC (the active component in Marijuana) in their blood were twice as likely to be responsible for a deadly crash.

For personnel in Italy, there are some points to keep in mind. First, the driving under the influence threshold is much lower than in the US. In Italy, the DUI level is 0.05, as compared to 0.08 in the U.S. The primary implication is that a person will become impaired long before they feel impaired. Additionally, the penalties are stiff: up to a 6,000 euro fine, imprisonment and confiscation are all possibilities.

For a 160-pound male, consuming two standard drinks (12 oz regular beer/5 oz wine/1.5 oz 40 proof spirits) in an hour will cause their blood alcohol content to approach 0.05. There are many free apps for smartphones available that will estimate your BAC. Using an app like this can prevent driving while impaired.

There are also potentially harmful effects that occur with the interaction of alcohol and over-the-counter (OTC) medications. Always read the label and understand the possible side-effects.
While these statistics can be disturbing, preventing drunk and drugged driving only takes some basic planning.

Remembering to designate a sober driver before the party begins is just one of several, simple steps to help avoid a tragic crash or an arrest for impaired driving during the holiday season. Other important reminders include:
- Never get behind the wheel of your vehicle if you've been out drinking.
- If impaired, call a taxi -- use mass transit if available -- or call a sober friend or family member to come and get you.
- If you are hosting a party this holiday season, remind your guests to always plan ahead to designate a sober driver, always offer alcohol-free beverages during the event, and make sure all of your guests leave with a sober driver.
- Friends Don't Let Friends Drive Drunk. Take the keys and never let a friend leave your sight if you think they are about to drive while impaired.

Driving impaired or riding with someone who is impaired is simply not worth the risk. The consequences are serious and real. Not only do you risk killing yourself or someone else, but the trauma and financial costs of a crash or an arrest for driving while impaired can be really significant and not the way you want to spend your holiday season.

So remember, this holiday season, if you catch a buzz, catch a ride.