As the holiday season arrives, there are some important concerns that must not be ignored. When friends and family gather to celebrate and spend time together, alcohol and other mood-altering substances are often found in abundance. Too often, the combination leads to tragic conclusions.
The numbers are both sobering and frightening. It’s calculated that each year Americans get behind the wheel of their cars, impaired by drugs or alcohol, more than 156 million times. They cause more than 700,000 injuries and a death every 30 minutes. It time for us to start reversing this epidemic of irresponsible behavior.
“When you treat people with addiction, you hear hundreds of stories each year about accidents and near-misses when people are driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol,” says Michael Campbell, president of St. Joseph Institute for Addiction near State College, Philadelphia. “Equally troubling are the countless times you hear that family and friends knew that someone was putting lives at risk and did nothing to stop them. By their inaction, they can become accomplices to injury and death.”
Put these guidelines into practice for a safe holiday season:
Appoint a designated driver. Before you go out, decide who will be responsible for getting the group back home. That person must promise to abstain or use moderation, staying below the legal limit and assuming responsibility for a safe ride.
Have a backup plan. If the designated driver slips, have an alternative plan that ensures you are never in a car with an unsafe driver.
Hide the keys. If someone has been drinking or using drugs, keep them off the road. It’s better to have an angry friend than a dead one.
Offer alternatives. If you are the host, have appealing alternatives to drinking alcohol. And remember to have lots of food, as a full stomach slows the rate of alcohol absorption.
Announce “last call” early. Stop serving alcohol an hour or two before your guests leave. Don’t let the effect of the last drink hit them as they are driving.
Don’t blame only alcohol.Marijuana, prescription meds, opiates and street drugs all have a devastating impact on driving skills.
Report dangerous driving. We all need to take responsibility for keeping our roads safe. If you see a driver who appears impaired, keep a safe distance and call 911.