The holidays should be a time of family, friends, and merriment; however, far too frequently, drinking and driving can put a serious damper on holiday celebrations. Driving while intoxicated (DWI) continues to be a very real problem across the US.
Here’s how you can protect yourself this holiday season.
Be cognizant of your actions
1. Don’t drink and drive. It is that simple. To stay safe while on the road, if you have been drinking or using drugs, then don’t get behind the wheel. Even if you’ve only had a few drinks and feel fine, it is best to not drive. Not only might you underestimate the impact of any alcohol you may have consumed, but DWI patrols are oftentimes out in force during the holidays, and if you are stopped—even with a BAC of less than the legal limit of .08—you could still be charged with DWI.
2. If you are celebrating with others, choose a designated sober driver before the festivities are underway. A designated driver is responsible for staying sober for the entire day and during any events in order to ensure that everyone gets home safely.
3. Take advantage of public transportation and rideshare programs. If you don’t have a designated driver, there are many options of which to take advantage: taxi, bus, Uber or Lyft, party buses, and others.
4. If you see someone who is intoxicated trying to get into his/her vehicle to drive home, try to get his/her car keys and offer alternatives for him/her to get home safely.
Get the keys
Getting an intoxicated person’s car keys can be difficult, but if s/he ends up being responsible for a traffic accident or fatality, the situation is much worse, and if you were aware of his/her intoxicated state, you could end up living with a lifetime of guilt.
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) offers tips for preventing an intoxicated person from driving by collecting his/her keys:
• Use a calm approach. Suggest to him/her that s/he has had too much to drink and, perhaps, it would be better for him/her to get a ride home instead of driving him/herself.
• Make light of or joke about the situation to minimize friction. Avoid embarrassment at all costs.
• Make it sound as though you are doing him/her a favor.
• While s/he is preoccupied, find the keys and take them. In many cases, the intoxicated person will simply think s/he lost the keys and find another way home.
• If you are close to the person—good friend, spouse, family member, significant other, etc.—inform him/her that you will not be riding if s/he insists on driving.
• If you don’t know the person, talk to his/her friends and ask them to try to persuade their friend to give up his/her keys.
How you can keep yourself safe on the road
Above are tips you can take to ensure you don’t drive drunk, but how do you keep yourself safe from drunk drivers?
1. When on the road, drive as if everyone around you is intoxicated. Keeping your distance from the vehicle in front of you, staying alert for oncoming traffic, and being prepared for evasive maneuvers, if necessary, are all steps you can take to keep yourself safe while driving during the holiday season.
2. Avoid highways, if possible.
3. Avoid driving very late at night as this is when many drunk drivers are on the road.
4. Report any driver you believe is driving while under the influence. By being proactive and reporting a motorist who you suspect of driving drunk, you may save a life.
5. Utilize extra caution at intersections. Many alcohol-related accidents occur at intersections. Therefore, don’t simply assume that someone else will stop at a red light.
6. Under no circumstances, let your friend or family member drive drunk. Regardless of how angry s/he might get at you at the moment, s/he will invariably thank you in the morning.
Whether you drive drunk or sober is up to you; however, while you can’t make someone else not drink, you can minimize his/her effect on the road. The holidays should be celebratory, not tragic.
Happy Holidays and stay safe!