By Beth Ann Cameron, U.S. Army Public Health CommandDecember 3, 2012
The holiday season is the time of the year when drunk and impaired driving accidents are most prevalent. Drug and alcohol use impair judgment, delay reaction times, and can result in deadly consequences when driving. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, drugs (for example, marijuana and cocaine) are involved in about 18 percent of motor vehicle driver deaths. Drunk driving accidents account for 31 percent of all motor vehicle accidents, and thousands of drivers and passengers lose their lives each year because of drunk and drugged driving.
December is National Drunk and Drugged Driving Prevention Month, a time to raise awareness about the consequences of driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs. Most people would never imagine that their holiday celebration could result in a fatality or imprisonment, but the risks associated with driving while impaired are very real and can result in tragic consequences for everyone involved.
The following list includes a few simple tips for celebrating and driving safely this holiday season:
• Designate a non-drinking driver ahead of time.
• If drinking alcohol at a party or other celebration, allow at least one hour between drinks. It takes one hour to get rid of one drink from your body (one drink is equal to a 12-ounce beer, 5-ounce glass of wine, or 1½-ounce shot of liquor).
• Set limits beforehand of the number of drinks to have and stick with it.
• Alternate drinking alcoholic beverages with soda, juice or water and eat food.
• Don't mix alcohol with other drugs, including over-the-counter and prescription medications.
• Don't ride with someone who is impaired. Use other means of transportation such as a taxi, public transportation or driver who is sober.
If you are hosting a party, here are some steps to take to help your guests drive safely:
• Plan ahead and designate a sober driver.
• Collect each guest's keys upon arrival and store in a designated basket.
• Serve foods along with alcohol-free beverages such as soda, juice or water.
• If making an alcoholic punch, use fruit juice instead of a carbonated drink. Alcohol absorbs faster into the blood stream when mixed with carbonated drinks.
• Stop serving alcohol 1 to 1½ hours before the party actually ends.
If you take a medication that makes you drowsy, do not drive. Have someone drive you.
During Drunk and Drugged Driving Prevention Month, recommit yourself to preventing the loss of life by reminding others to be sober and drug free, and use safe driving practices on the road. Drink responsibly, drive responsibly and encourage family members, friends and co-workers to be safe and responsible drivers for the holidays and beyond.
For more information, visit the following Web sites:
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/Impaired
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, http://www.cdc.gov/Motorvehiclesafety/Impaired_Driving/index.html
Mothers Against Drunk Driving, http://www.madd.org/feature-stories/december/december-is-national-drunk.html