As we approach the busy holiday season when more people are on the road, it’s important to know that during this time there are also more impaired drivers on the road. Last year, 25% of the traffic fatalities in Georgia were related to drunk driving. Most of these deaths could have been prevented if someone had done something to keep the drunk drivers off the road. December is National Drunk and Drugged Driving (3D) Prevention Month to bring the focus on the problem and what we can do to reduce impaired driving.
While drunk driving has decreased somewhat in recent years, more than 10,000 people still die annually in alcohol-impaired driving crashes – that’s one every 51 minutes. But, wait, there’s more to the story. Research is now showing that alcohol is not the only problem on the road. In a recent national study of seriously injured drivers, 27% tested positive for marijuana and 12% tested positive for cocaine.
Young drivers are particularly at risk for being impacted by drunk and drugged driving. The national Monitoring the Future survey indicates that 30% of high school seniors had driven impaired or had been a passenger of an impaired driver in the two weeks prior to being surveyed. Nearly one quarter (23.2%) of high school seniors said they drove or rode with a driver after he or she used marijuana while 15.8% said they drove or rode with someone after having five or more drinks. Adding to the problem is the fact that youth are still relatively inexperienced drivers and you have a potentially deadly combination.
There are many things we can do to reduce impaired driving. Here are some strategies everyone can participate in:
- Never allow alcohol to be provided or served to minors. It’s against the law and it’s dangerous.
- If you’re planning an adult party or social event, make sure there are plenty of non-alcohol beverages provided and that they’re prominently displayed.
- If alcohol is going to be provided, encourage – or insist – that designated drivers be identified early one. Choosing the “less drunk” person to drive at the end of the night is NOT the same thing!
- Provide lots of protein and high carbohydrate food and snacks, but steer clear of salty ones that make people want to drink more. It’s best to have guests eat first so they’re not drinking on an empty stomach.
- If you’re an adult, and you’re thinking about drinking, be aware that there are times when you are more vulnerable to alcohol impairment. If you’ve been sick or rundown, you’re taking medicine that increase impairment with mixed with alcohol, or you haven’t eaten, you may want to reconsider drinking for the time being. If you’re pregnant or need to operate a car or other heavy equipment, choose not to drink at all.
- NEVER drive under the influence of alcohol or other drugs and don’t get into a car being driven by someone who is. Arranging for alternative transportation may just save your life.