OpEd from Healthy Acadia: Impaired Driving and the Holiday Season
The holiday season offers many ways to celebrate with friends, family, co-workers and our communities. Gatherings and celebrations are in full swing and New Year festivities will be upon us before we know it. Much energy goes into the planning and preparation for the holidays, but I have to wonder how much time is dedicated to proper planning on how loved ones and guests will get home safely after celebrations, especially when some may have participated in alcohol or drug use.
December is National Impaired Driving Prevention Month. As recently as 2013, the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimated an average of 28 people died every day from accidents caused by drunk driving. This number can nearly double between Thanksgiving and New Year. Additionally, the 2013-2014 NHTSA’s National Roadside Survey of Alcohol and Drug Use by Drivers, reports that drugged driving is on the rise. Nearly 1 in 5 drivers tested positive for at least one drug in 2014, up from 16.3 percent in 2007. Among those tested, 12.6 percent of drivers had evidence of marijuana use in their systems, up from 8.6 percent in 2007. Last year, over 15 percent of drivers tested positive for at least one illegal drug, up from 12 percent in 2007.
While celebrating this holiday season here are some tips to Consider – Are the risks of using any substance worth the consequences you may be placing upon yourself and others? Consult – Certain medications may be intensified or become dangerous when mixed with alcohol or other substances, even in small amounts. If you are taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, consult with your physician before using alcohol or other substances. Plan – Where are you going? Who are you going with? How are you getting home? Prepare – Eat, drink water, and make sure you take just enough money to have a good time, leave your credit cards at home! Pace – Limit how much you drink in a night. If you’re not with a designated driver, you can always call a friend, family member, or a taxi service, or spend the night. Please remember that there are always safe and sober alternatives available for celebrating the holiday season.
Too many people are taking their lives, and the lives of innocent others, into their own hands by driving after drinking or using substances. By considering, planning, preparing and pacing, you can enjoy the celebrations of the holiday season while protecting the health and safety of yourself, your loved ones, and our community.
Here’s to a safe, joyful and healthy holiday season!
Healthy Acadia, Drug Free Communities Project Coordinator