According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), in 2010, 37% of highway deaths during the Christmas holiday season were caused by drunk driving. During the holiday season some people celebrate with the consumption of alcohol and then also choose to get behind the wheel. The United States Department of Transportation reported a death every 57 minutes due to intoxicated driving during December 2014. The holiday season should be a time of merriment spent with loved ones, not a time of grief for a loved one's life that was lost.
Many myths and misconceptions surrounding alcohol could lead a person to choose to drive after drinking. Ideas such as coffee and a cold shower sober up a person, could lead one to believe that they are "good to drive". In reality, time is the only thing that allows alcohol to leave a person's system. Another common but false thought is that alcohol is a stimulant, heightening a person's senses and aiding them to drive better. Alcohol is actually a depressant, which decreases inhibitions, coordination, reaction time, and ability to drive. Many times people justify the choice to drive drunken saying they know when they are too drunk to drive or they are better drivers after drinking, yet this is not the case. Alcohol impairs judgment. Being aware of this before starting a night of celebratory holiday drinking can help prevent a fatal car accident and potentially save multiple lives.
Here are some of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) tips to help prevent tragedy this holiday season:
- Go out with a plan. Set a number of drinks to consume and do not exceed that limit.
- Alternate between alcohol beverages and water. The host of an event should serve plenty of food and offer alternative non-alcoholic beverages.
- Eat before and while drinking. Food helps to slow the body's absorption of alcohol.
- Designate a sober driver before going out. Call a cab. Go somewhere within walking distance of home or final destination.
- Do not accept a ride with an impaired driver
- Consider sleeping arrangements when hosting events where alcohol is involved. If guests will stay overnight, then take their keys and put them in a safe place until the next morning.
- Consider attending events at restaurants or bars where working professionals can deal with someone who has had too much to drink, rather than at private homes.
- Wear seat belts at all times and be alert when driving during high risk times. Even if a driver has not had anything to drink, driving during the holidays puts a person at risk.
Have a safe and enjoyable holiday with loved ones. For more tips check out the NHTSA's December 2013 "Safety in Numb3rs"
Information provided by Abigail Willett, student intern with Community Outreach at Augusta Health. To contact Dana Breeding, RN, related to the information in this article or with questions/comments/concerns, please call (540) 332-4988 or (540) 932-4988.