We are in the season of festivities, with many celebrations for the holidays and New Year's. But the sobering reality is that it's also a time of year when many people die on our roads due to drunk driving. Last year, 830 people died during the holiday season in these crashes.
In 2012, 10,322 people were killed in alcohol-related car crashes, an increase of 4.6 percent over last year. These crashes continues to represent about a third of all traffic deaths, which has remained constant for the last 10 years.
One way to combat the problem is through ignition interlock devices. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has found that convicted drunk drivers with interlocks installed are 75 percent less likely to repeat the behavior than those who do not have interlocks. NHTSA has provided states with guidelines to encourage them to implement an interlock program to help protect sober drivers and make those convicted learn from their mistakes. Currently, 18 states have enacted these laws for first time offenders.
In an effort to curb dangerous behavior this festive time of year, there is a seasonal drunk-driving campaign "Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over" running nationwide now through the New Year. Police will be out in force conducting traffic stops to catch offenders and spread the word that drinking and driving don't mix.
Here are some tips to keep in mind as you celebrate the holiday season.
- Have a designated driver. If you plan on traveling to a party, make sure you have a driver who will stay sober and be responsible for taking you home safely.
- Drop off your keys. If you don't have a designated driver, give someone your keys so you aren't tempted to get into the car after drinking.
- Pack a bag. If you plan to party hard and/or late, bring an overnight bag so that you are prepared to sleep over until you are sober and alert enough to drive home. In fact, make it part of your plans and everyone will sleep better.
- Use public transportation. Most cities with public transportation systems will have more buses and trains running throughout New Year's Eve to help party-goers get home safely. Organizing a cab or even share one to reduce costs.
- Walking isn't safer. You aren't necessarily safer if you decide to hoof it after a few drinks instead of getting behind the wheel. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the first day of the new year has the highest number of pedestrians killed than any other day throughout the year. If you must walk, go in a group and wear visible clothing, so that drivers can see you.
- Wear your safety belt. It is your best defense in a crash.
- Know where your children are. We've all heard that TV ad that says: "It's 10 p.m., do you know where your children are?" Make sure you keep tabs on your kids if they are going to be out with friends this New Year's. Coordinate with other parents to transport children home from parties and make sure they know the rules on drinking and driving.
- Coffee isn't the cure. It's a myth that coffee can help sober you up. Only time can do that, so stay put until you recover.
Have fun this holiday season, but do stay safe. For more on vehicle safety, see our special section and our report on how to reduce highway fatalities.