Curtailing drunken driving begins with personal responsibility

THE HOLIDAY SEASON is meant for celebration and joy — and joy in abundance. Unfortunately, irresponsible behavior — constantly the focus of accident-prevention training at Safety Solutions & Supply — can turn a time of great joy into a time of great tragedy and sorrow.

The topic here is the irresponsibility of overindulgent and excessive alcohol consumption — at any time but particularly during the holidays — and the totally preventable traffic-related accidents, injuries, and deaths often caused by drunken driving.

The Foundation for Advanced Alcohol Responsibility reports that drunken-driving fatalities on U.S. roadways have decreased 48 percent since 1982, when record keeping for these statistics began. While that indicates progress in the fight against drunken driving, even one death resulting from overindulgent drinking is one death too many.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 37,133 people died in traffic crashes in 2017 in the United States, including an estimated 10,874 people who were killed in drunken-driving crashes involving a driver with an illegal blood-alcohol content (BAC) of .08 or greater. Fatalities related to alcohol-impaired driving accounted for 29 percent of all vehicle traffic fatalities last year.

Looking at these sobering statistics another way, almost 29 people in the United States die in alcohol-impaired vehicle crashes every day. That’s a 2016 statistic from the NHTSA, and it equates to the death of one person every 50 minutes. From a financial standpoint, the deaths and damages resulting from alcohol-related crashes cost America $44 billion per year (a statistic from 2010, the most recent year for cost data).

Impaired driving is a dangerous crime, and some good news is the fact that tough enforcement of drunken-driving laws has been a major factor in reducing alcohol-related deaths. Still-further reduction in the number of these deaths, however, begins with people. It begins with individuals. It begins with responsible behavior — the kind of behavior that helps to keep down the number of job-related accidents and fatalities.

In the arena of alcohol and alcohol consumption, responsible behavior includes:

  • Not drinking if you’re going to be driving.

  • Not driving if you’re going to be drinking. (The negative effects of alcohol begin quickly and can last for hours. You could be impaired — in judgment, motor skills, and reaction time — and not even realize it.)

  • Choosing a non-drinking friend to be a designated driver.

  • Calling a taxi or ride service, like Lyft or Uber, if you don’t have a designated driver.

  • Not letting your drinking friends drive impaired.

  • Being a terrific party host and making sure no party-goer gets behind the wheel impaired.

  • For others on the road, wearing a seat belt for some protection in an alcohol-related crash — or any kind of crash.

Enjoy the holidays and enjoy the holiday parties and festivities, but enjoy them responsibly. All of us want you — and anyone who’s out on the road with you — around for a good long time.