Don't mar holiday celebrations by drinking, driving

Posted: Sunday, December 29, 2002

Most people know the right things to do to stay safe and healthy. They know they should eat more fruits and veggies and less ice cream and cake. They know they should exercise more and watch TV less. They know they should wear personal flotation devices when they are on the water. They know they should scrape the ice and snow off their car before they drive. They know they should lift with their legs, not their back.

They know they should never drink and drive.

As an old year passes and a new one begins, resolutions and celebrations are on people's minds. Our hope is that everyone ringing in the New Year with alcohol will resolve not to drink and drive. Not this year. Not next year. Not ever again. No matter how much or how little they've had to drink.

It's just not worth the chance one takes.

Alaska State Troopers and other law enforcement agencies have increased patrols targeting drunk drivers during the holidays. The message of their efforts is simple: Drive hammered. Get nailed. It's part of a nationwide campaign spearheaded by the National Highway Safety Administration that runs through Saturday.

The trouble is everyone already knows it isn't safe to drink and drive. Many people, however, live under the pleasant illusion that it's OK for them to drink and drive. They wrongly believe that somehow their judgment isn't impaired when they drink -- at least not enough to cause an accident or call attention to themselves. Or, they believe they live under some magic star that won't allow them to get into trouble. Some "reason" they know the roads too well to get into trouble; after all, home is just a short drive away.

Unfortunately, drunk drivers not only put themselves in danger, they put the lives of all those on the road with them at risk.

Drinking and driving also can put a big dent in one's bank account -- even if one is fortunate enough to escape being in an accident. Legal fees, fines, higher insurance rates and missed work are just a few of the ways the bar tab increases to astronomical proportions when one is arrested for drunk driving.

The cost of a cab fare or hotel room is minuscule in compariso to the cost involved in a drunk driving arrest.

Some statistics from the National Commission on Drunk Driving provide plenty of evidence that driving while impaired is an issue that should not be taken lightly:

Three out of 10 Americans face the possibility of being directly involved in an alcohol-related crash sometime during their lifetime.

On an average day, 46 people die in alcohol-related traffic crashes; these fatalities account for 41 percent of traffic deaths.

Traffic crashes are the greatest single cause of death for every age group between 6 and 33 years of age.

Nearly 80 percent of all occupants killed in alcohol-related traffic crashes were not wearing seat belts.

The total economic costs of alcohol-related traffic crashes exceeds $50 billion each year.

Police arrest more than 1.5 million drivers for driving under the influence of alcohol each year.

There is something everyone can do to help reduce those statistics:

Don't drink and drive. Period.

Don't ride with anyone who has been drinking to the point of impairment.

Always wear your seat belt.

If you are hosting a party where alcohol will be served, be prepared to arrange for a ride home for your guests or invite them to spend the night. Also, plan activities so that the focus isn't just on drinking.

If you are going out to drink, designate a nondrinking driver ahead of time, take a cab or make a reservation and spend the night. Also, sip your drinks, eat and alternate alcoholic beverages with nonalcoholic ones.

Everyone knows the right thing to do. There's no reason for anyone to ruin everyone's holiday celebration by drinking and driving. An arrest -- or worse -- caused by driving while drunk is no way to start the new year.

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