After Thanksgiving and right up to New Years, American highways and roads see a flurry of activity with people driving 50 miles or more to spend time with their families. In fact, these 35 days are the busiest time of the year as far as long distance road travel goes. Not only are there an increased number of vehicles on the road but also most drivers are worse for wear after the festivities, which inevitably involve the consumption of alcohol.
When combined, the high spirits, the long drive and the alcohol induced stupor creates a dangerous environment. Is it any wonder then that these 35 days are also the most hazardous time to be on the road? To add to the woes of drivers, the weather brings along its own share of road issues. So, it easy to understand why the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety states that December 23 is one of the ten deadliest days of the year to drive.
How grave is the mishap related injury and fatality scenario?
Every day almost 100 deaths are reported in the country, which are attributed to road accidents. However, this number almost doubles on six days each year and Dec 23 and Jan 1 are two of these 6 days. Unfortunately, nearly 60% of these fatalities involve a drunk driver or motorist. In contrast, on regular days, only about 31% of road mishaps can be pinned on driving under the influence of alcohol.
It is not just people behind the wheels who are at risk; pedestrians are also more at danger during the holiday season. Normally, about 13% road fatalities involve folks who were just walking on the road when the accident occurred. However, mishaps reported during the holiday season included a higher number of pedestrian casualties as well.
So staggering is the rise in the number of accidents during this season that most police departments issue advisories to make people aware of the risks involved in driving around at this time of the year. State DOT’s are also offering information on how drivers inevitably endanger their own lives and jeopardize those around them by trying to control a vehicle when they obviously lack control over their faculties.
To foster a culture of road safety, the “Make a Plan” initiative has been put into action in many states across the country. It has not only been received positively by many but also it is being deemed as an effective endeavor to educate drivers as well as pedestrians.
As the police and emergency rooms all across the nation gear up to handle the 25,000 traffic accident related injuries that are expected to occur during the holiday season this year, the most important thing to know is that all of these mishaps could have easily been avoided.
That one last drink is what will get you in trouble!
Often it is misconceptions and not callousness or blatant disregard for the safety of others that leads people to drive even after they have consumed alcoholic beverages. When alcohol is part of the revelries, it is imperative to understand that there is no such thing as light drinks. Whether you are talking about beer, wine or gin, after a certain quantity, the impact of the alcohol will be the same regardless of what you have had
For instance, a person who has 6 ounces of wine will experience the same degree of intoxication as another individual who has had 12 ounces of beer and a third person who has consumed 1.5 ounces of hard liquor such as vodka or whiskey. In other words, although the quantities may differ, at the end of the day, after a certain point, there will be no difference in the level of intoxication and how it compromises your cognitive functions.
Another thing to consider is that, once you have had alcohol, it takes your body a certain number of hours to metabolize it and no amount of caffeine consumed in any form will come to your rescue in purging the alcohol or its effects out of your system. If you are being served with punch at a personal or professional party, ask what has gone into making the beverage. So, that you don’t inevitably end up consuming more alcohol than you planned on.
Avoid tragedy by not putting yourself in a situation where things get out of control
No, you do not have to shun holiday celebrations; on the contrary, go out and have a good time, but plan for safety well in advance. This way you will be ensuring that you as well as your friends make it back home safely. Implement the slogan of the National Safety Commission which says “Safety is No Accident” and plan ahead. If you intend to attend a party and let yourself go, take responsible steps beforehand such as:
- Designate someone in the group as the driver, and this person should not consume any alcoholic beverages. With the number of parties during the holiday season, surely everybody will get a chance to sit out and play the designated driver.
- If it is a small group or just a twosome, bring along enough cash for a cab ride and the number of the cab company if one cannot just be hailed off the road. Yes, you will be spending more but your safety and that of the other people on the road is certainly worth the money.
- Do not over drink by following the one drink-one hour rule. Try to mix booze with wholesome food and stick to no more than one drink an hour. A full tummy will slow down the circulation of the alcohol through your body. However, even if you are going to start the party and end it on a single drink, it is still important to have a driver along who limits himself/herself to non alcoholic beverages.
- If you are inviting people over for a party and are going to serve alcohol, you may want to refrain from partaking, so that you are sober to drive your guests back home. Another way is to keep the number of the cab company handy. Not only will you be doing your friends a favor by being responsible but also you will be able to keep any suit resulting from an accident at bay. As the host, if a guest leaves your home in an inebriated state and then meets with an accident, you could be held responsible for the damages.
Just because you made it back home safely even after drinking your heart out for all these years, does not mean you will be lucky again this time. Even a small buzz does cause impairment and will be considered as such if you are arrested. People have been held responsible for collisions which were not their fault because they were found to be under the influence of alcohol.
The best case scenario is that through the holidays you will be cooling your heels behind bars and the worst is that you will end up on the ER table. If you are charged with a DUI, your insurance company will not cover the injuries or the vehicle damage. This is a no win situation which could have been avoided in the first place. So, don’t take the risk this season, have fun and enjoy yourself responsibly!