When most people are asked what they fear most about other drivers on the road, the answer is clear: drunk driving. It has been found that more people fear this than people speeding near them or tailgating them while driving. Most report this to be the biggest safety problem. However, according to a recent gallop poll, 60 percent of those same people surveyed admitted they had driven a vehicle while drunk or near-drunk.
“The poll clearly shows this is a major concern, especially during the holidays because of increased drinking and increased driving,” said Glynn Birch, national president of Mothers Against Drunk driving.
Further, M.A.D.D. reported that on average, about 1,500 people in the United States are killed in alcohol-related crashes between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve. Also, they found that during the last half of December 2010, 415 people were killed in drunk-driving accidents. Throughout an average year, almost 17,000 people are killed by drunk or impaired driving, an average of one every 30 minutes. Interestingly, in 2007, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released a report stating that alcohol-related fatal crashes rise significantly in the two week period encompassing Christmas and New Year’s Eve. The average number of fatalities on U.S. roadways on New Year’s Eve is 54, up from the non-holiday average of 36 fatalities a day.
However, Birch pointed out that there was one positive thing about the gallop poll. That was that almost one in every five drivers, 17 percent, said they had encouraged someone not to drive in the past week because it looked like they had too much to drink.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), many New Year’s revelers get into trouble because they don’t recognize that their driving skills and decision-making abilities are impaired long before they begin to show physical signs of intoxication and it’s easy to misjudge alcohol’s lasting effects. Alcohol can continue to affect the brain and body long after the individual’s last drink has been consumed. Even after someone stops drinking, alcohol in the stomach and intestines can continue to enter the bloodstream and circulate through the body. So, according to the NIAAA, judgment and coordination can be impaired for hours after drinking.
It’s always good to offer to give someone a ride if you can tell they are questionably intoxicated. It’s best to make a plan with a responsible designated driver before the party begins. Decide on a designated driver at the beginning of the night. Don’t wait until the end of the night and let “the most sober” person in your group get behind the wheel. A couple of drinks are still enough to impair reaction time and put yourself and others at risk on the road. Planning is key to being a safe driver on New Year’s Eve.
There are precautions to be taken against New Years Eve drunk driving. People can and should arrange to stay the night, take a cab, or decide early in the evening which person will stay sober and drive. And that designated person needs to stay responsibly sober– not try to sober up at the end of the evening. Also important, everyone driving should also be sure to use seat belts. Seat belts are the best defense against a drunk driver not just on New Years, but all throughout the year.
Sources: healingwell.com, madd.org