In December 2012, President Obama designated December as National Impaired Driving Prevention Month and invited families, educators, health care providers, and community leaders to promote responsible decision-making and encouraged young people to live free of drugs and alcohol.
Why do we recognize National Impaired Driving Prevention Month?
The National Highway Safety Traffic Administration (NHTSA) reported that in 2019 during the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, 210 lives were lost due to alcohol-impaired driving crashes. That’s 210 people in one week who didn’t make it home because either they or someone with whom they came in contact with chose to use alcohol and get behind the wheel. That same year, more than 10,0000 people died from drunk driving crashes alone. These deaths were preventable.
Alcohol-impaired driving crashes—which range from being under the influence of substances to distracted driving to speeding—increase throughout December as more people travel. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health showed over 26 million people ages 16 or older drove under the influence of alcohol or illicit drugs during the past year. Approximately 17 percent of these people were 20 to 25 years old.
The good news is that prevention works. As we come together this holiday season, educate yourself and others on the risks of driving while impaired and take steps to stay safe. We can start with the science. There are no shortcuts to “sobering up” and preparing to drive; a person’s coordination and reaction time are slowed long before they actually show signs of intoxication. Coffee is not a cure-all. And even slowing or stopping drinking an hour or more before planning to drive does not mean the alcohol has “worn off.”
Being a responsible driver is simple: If you are drinking, do not drive.
- Plan your safe ride home before you start the party, choose a non-drinking friend as a designated driver.
- If someone you know has been drinking, do not let that person get behind the wheel. Take their keys and help them arrange a sober ride home.
- If you drink, do not drive for any reason. Call a taxi, a ride-hailing service, or a sober friend.
- If you are hosting a party where alcohol will be served, make sure all guests leave with a sober driver.
- Always wear your seat belt- it’s your best defense against impaired drivers.
- It is illegal to drive with a BAC (blood alcohol content) at or above 0.08%.
- Publicized sobriety checkpoints are allowed.
- Ignition interlocks are required for all (including first-time) convicted offenders.
- In 2020, there were 73 alcohol-impaired driving fatalities.
For up to date information on laws in your state, check with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The Freeman/Lozier Library has several books on the topic that you can find here.