Happy New Year and Take Good Care of Yourselves

 

December. As individuals, we look forward to getting together with friends and family to celebrate the holidays. It’s also a time when prevention can play an especially important role. December is a deadly month for impaired driving.

The National Highway Safety Traffic Administration (NHTSA) reported that in 2019 during the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, 210 lives were lost due to alcohol-impaired driving crashes. That’s 210 people in one week who didn’t make it home because either they or someone with whom they came in contact chose to use alcohol and then get behind the wheel. That same year, more than 10,000 people died from drunk driving crashes alone.

These deaths were preventable. That’s why for more than 40 years, preventionists across the country have observed National Impaired Driving Prevention Month in December to raise awareness that impaired driving can be deadly and to put strategies in place for all of us to make it home safely.

As everyone takes precautions to be able to safely return to in-person events, more and more celebrations are being added to the calendar. It could be an intimate dinner at a friend’s house, perhaps a happy hour to celebrate a return to the office, or a gathering of high school friends home from college. In each instance, alcohol and other substances may not be necessarily at the center of the fun but are a common denominator.

Alcohol-impaired driving crashes—which range from being under the influence of substances to distracted driving to speeding—increase throughout December as more people travel. SAMHSA’s 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health showed over 26 million people ages 16 or older drove under the influence of alcohol or illicit drugs during the past year. Approximately 17 percent of these people were 20 to 25 years old.

Motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death and nonfatal injury among U.S. adolescents, resulting in approximately 2,500 deaths and 300,000 nonfatal injuries each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While NHTSA’s “Buzzed Driving Is Drunk Driving” campaign addresses driving under the influence of just alcohol, it’s important to note that many substances can impair driving, including marijuana, opioids, methamphetamines, or even prescribed or over-the-counter medications.

The good news is that prevention works. As we come together this holiday season, educate yourself and others on the risks of driving while impaired and take steps to stay safe. We can start with the science. There are no shortcuts to “sobering up” and preparing to drive; a person’s coordination and reaction time

are slowed long before they actually show signs of intoxication. Coffee is not a cure-all. And even slowing or stopping drinking an hour or more before planning to drive does not mean the alcohol has “worn off.”

( a word from this blogger: be proactive if you go out new year’s eve as well as every day and night throughout the year. Be good to yourself. Take care of yourself. You matter.)