Though motorists and pedestrians throughout the United States and Canada are at risk from drunk drivers every day of the year, New Year’s Eve brings with it an increased risk of harm.
The festive mood of New Year's Eve combined with free flowing alcoholic beverages at parties often gives way to lower inhibitions and with that may come an increase in risk taking and impaired judgment.
Impaired judgment resulting from alcohol consumption may manifest itself in the form of drunk driving.
The vast array of year-end parties where booze is plentiful along with a stark increase in the number of motorists on the roadways is always a perfect combination for tragedy.
Some sobering statistics reveal the scope of the drunk driving crisis:
According to 2012 data from the U.S. National Highway Traffic Administration:
Every day in America, another 27 people die as a result of drunk driving crashes.
While another statistic from that agency informs:
In 2011, 9,878 people died in drunk driving crashes - one every 53 minutes
Yet another statistic provided by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD)
with 2009 data provided by the Canadian government reveals:
An estimated 1,074 Canadians were killed in motor vehicle accidents that were impaired-related while another 63,338 (roughly 174 per day) were injured.
Don’t add to these grim statistics.
The following are some sound safety tips on how you can help prevent drunk driving tonight.
How you can prevent drunk driving
1. Have a designated driver:
If you and your friends plan to celebrate New Year’s Eve by going to a bar, club, party or anywhere else where there will be consumption of alcohol you should designate a driver before you leave. The designated driver should maintain sole control over the car keys and should not consume any alcoholic beverages. Having a designated driver ensures that you and your friends will have a safe ride home.
2. Use Alternative Transportation:
if you and all of your friends are inebriated (including the designated driver), call a friend or relative to come to your location and drive you home. If no one you know is available to give you a lift home then call a cab or even take public transportation. You may think that public transportation is really uncool but I assure you that wrapping your car around a huge oak tree is far less cool.
Don't let your friends or anyone else in your presence drive drunk. If you notice a friend or another patron is drunk and about to get behind the wheel of a motor vehicle, take the keys from them and call a cab to take them to their destination. If they become belligerent and threatening towards you for thwarting their efforts to drive drunk, call the police.
Never let someone in your presence drive drunk no matter how far or how short the distance. Don’t be afraid to take away or hide someone’s car keys to keep them from driving.
If someone in your presence who is drunk actually manages to gain access to a motor vehicle and drives away, immediately call the police.
Do whatever you have to do to keep him or her from getting behind the wheel. It is absolutely imperative that you do not allow your drunken friend to drive.
Look, if your friend told you that he or she was going to commit suicide at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s, you would do whatever it took to save their life, right?
So, why would you simply stand aside and watch as your drunken friend gets behind the steering wheel, start the ignition, and drive away to his or her potential death.
A real friend does not simply stand by and watch as another friend prepares to destroy his or her own life or that of someone else's. A real friend takes action to protect those he or she cares about.
you that they will thank you for it when they become sober again.
If You Will Be Throwing a New Year’s Eve Party:
If you are planning to throw a New Year’s Eve party tonight, be a responsible host by ensuring the well-being of your guests. Here are some sound tips on how you can throw a party that is not only fun but safe for all:
Non-alcoholic beverages should be present at the party. It is recommended that you give your guests plenty of alternatives to alcohol by offering water, juice, soda pop. You should also never pressure your guests to drink alcohol
You should serve plenty of food as a full stomach can help slow the rate of alcohol absorption. It is recommended that you serve a large meal or at the very least have plenty of appetizers on hand.
Stop serving alcohol at least one or two hours before you end your party.
Note your guests alcohol intake and behavior. Arrange alternate transportation for those who have had a lot to drink or seems even the slightest bit tipsy. Call a cab for inebriated party guests or set up a ride for them with a sober driver.
Debunking Myths on Drunkenness
There are a lot of myths regarding drunkenness and sobriety. Many of these myths are so odd in nature that they defy logic while others are just downright foolish. Though some of the following myths are so humorous that only someone incredibly dense would believe them, its deadly serious that we take this time to differentiate between myth and fact as many of these myths have contributed to drunk driving injuries and fatalities.
Drinking lots of coffee or energy drinks will make you sober
Chewing gum or eating a meal will make you sober
Jumping up and down, jogging or exercising will make you sober
Splashing water on your face or taking a cold shower will make you sober
Taking a long walk in brisk weather will make you sober
Smoking cigarettes will make you sober
Illicit drugs will sober you up
Having someone shout at you, slap you in the face or shake you repeatedly will make you sober
There is a pill, herbal supplement, folk remedy, or injection that you can receive to make you sober
Once you are drunk there is absolutely nothing
that you can do to make yourself sober. You have to let the alcohol run its course through your system (which will generally take several hours or the better part of an entire day). If you become drunk, you are out of commission for the night and too drunk to drive. The only
thing that can make you sober again is time.
In the case of illicit drugs, not only will they not make you sober but they may impair you even further (this includes marijuana, cocaine, crystal meth and others).
I’m just a little buzzed from drinking but I can still drive
Driving while buzzed or tipsy IS considered drunk driving
If you or someone that you are with is feeling “buzzed” or tipsy do not drive.
The above myths are misguiding and provide a false justification and a false sense of reassurance to those who would seek to drink and drive.
The fact that such myths are so pervasive in our society is very telling of the general public’s knowledge on drunk driving.
What should you do if you encounter a drunken motorist while driving?
The drunk driver is a very selfish, arrogant and dangerous person. Though so drunk that he or she can’t even legibly print their name on a sheet of paper, the drunk driver somehow believes in his or her ability to actually operate a motor vehicle – a task that is certainly far more complicated than legibly writing your name.
Barreling down a highway or city street somewhere in the U.S. or Canada at an ungodly speed while swerving in and out of traffic, the drunk driver is a threat to all - including him or herself. Just moments away from committing murder (or suicide) with only fate itself deciding who his or her victim(s) will be.
According to the Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD)
, an advocacy group that seeks to stop drunk driving, you should do the following if you encounter an intoxicated driver:
You should stay as far away from the motorist as possible
Do not try to pass the driver or signal him or her as this may result in a collision
You should take notice of the license plate number of the vehicle along with other details including the color, make and model. However, MADD also urges you to be careful and not to compromise your own safety while obtaining this information
Finally, pull over and call 911. Give authorities the exact location the vehicle as well as the name of the road or cross streets and the direction the vehicle is traveling. Give a complete description of the vehicle and the manner in which the vehicle is being driven.
From there you should realize that you have done all that you could do and leave the matter in the hands of law enforcement.
urges vigilance and warns motorists to be on alert for the following signs as they may indicate a drunken driver: quick acceleration or deceleration; tailgating; weaving or zig-zagging across the road; driving anywhere other than on a road designated for vehicles; almost striking an object, curb, or vehicle; stopping without cause or erratic braking; drifting in and out of traffic lanes; signaling that is inconsistent with driving actions; slow response to traffic signals (e.g. sudden stop or delayed start); straddling the center lane marker; driving with headlights off at night; swerving; driving slower than 10 mph below the speed limit; turning abruptly or illegally; driving into opposing traffic on the wrong side of the road.
If you witness anyone driving in such a fashion you should immediately call authorities.
Please do not simply ignore a drunken motorist and allow them to continue on their way. You are urged not to simply ignore them. They could be on their way to kill someone.
Do the right thing and call law enforcement.
The fact that you cared enough to take action may save someone else’s life – including quite possibly the life of the drunken motorist and any passengers he or she may have in their vehicle.
I am personally asking you to be responsible on this New Year’s holiday. Yes, by all means have fun but be careful as well. We made it through 2012, now let’s all enter into 2013 safely.
Don’t drink and drive tonight.
Don’t drink and drive ever.
This op-ed is dedicated in remembrance to my friend Jessica who was killed in an accident involving a drunk driver several years ago on her 21st birthday.