December is recognized as National Impaired Driving Prevention Month. During the holiday month, it’s an important time to remind people of the dangers and consequences of driving under the influence of alcohol, marijuana, and other mind-altering substances.
It’s natural for many people to partake in the partying and festivities of the holidays while consuming alcohol (and marijuana) until the fun goes too far and things go awry from a car accident while under the influence.
Using the occasion to observe National Impaired Driving Prevention Month can help people to stop and think, rather than making choices out of habit.
These deadly choices are commonplace and need to be changed. In 2012 alone, 4.2 million adults in the United States said that they drove while impaired by alcohol at least once in the past 30 days.
This amounts to 121 million alcohol-impaired driving episodes per year, putting lives at risk.
Over 10,000 lives were lost due to alcohol-related motor vehicle crashes in December 2017. These statistics don’t take other drugs, both illegal and legal prescriptions into the equation. The sad fact is that DUI related deaths are 100% preventable.
Impaired Driving Increases During The Holidays
In December there are more cars on the road, and people tend to binge drink more frequently at holiday parties. During other months, there is one death every 48 minutes in the U.S. due to driving under the influence (DUI). It’s not surprising to hear that accidents due to DUI soar during the holiday season.
When celebrating, it’s common for many people drink beyond their limits. Even people who don’t normally consume very much alcohol join in with the holiday spirit. The adverse consequences of increased impairment due to celebratory drinking can range from a verbal argument or fall, to a physical altercation or even a fatal car crash.
What is DUI or DWI Law in the USA?
Driving While Impaired or Intoxicated (DWI) and Driving Under the Influence (DUI) are terms that often mean the same thing, and are used interchangeably in many states.
Whatever term is used, driving a motor vehicle while impaired by the effects of alcohol or drugs (including prescription drugs) is a serious offense in every state and is sometimes considered a felony.
While a first time offender might get off somewhat lightly if nobody got injured, continual DUI offenses can be classified in the same category as murder, rape, or burglary. As such, a harsher sentencing is usually given.
In all states in the U.S., the legal blood alcohol content (BAC) limit is .08% except for Utah where it is .05%.
But every state has different laws regarding punishment and some states are stricter than others, especially for first-time or repeat offenders.
It’s important for everyone to become familiar with their state laws regarding DUI, and even more important to not drink alcohol and drive.
Will a DUI Affect Employment or Getting a Job?
Generally, a first time arrest for a DUI will not affect your job search, unless the job that you are looking for involves driving.
A person who gets convicted of a more serious or felony DUI will have a permanent criminal record and this may affect the ability to get a job as some employers take this into account when hiring employees.
What States Use DUI checkpoints?
A DUI checkpoint (also known as a DUI roadblock or sobriety checkpoint) is a location where police officers set up camp to check drivers for signs of intoxication.
The rules surrounding DUI checkpoints vary from state to state, with 12 states currently prohibiting the use of DUI checkpoints, such as Texas, Alaska, Idaho, Iowa and Michigan.
While 38 states conduct sobriety checkpoints, anyone can check whether or not their state has enforced DUI checkpoints or not here.
Cannabis and Impaired Driving
Alcohol isn’t the only subsatance that is classified as a DUI because many prescription drugs and marijuana will also impair driving. People who smoke pot often think that marijuana doesn’t affect driving, but they couldn’t be further from the truth.
A study exposed the startling fact that fatal driving accidents involving marijuana have tripled over a 10 year period from 1999 to 2010.
In 1999, just 4% of fatalities involved marijuana use, compared to 12% of crashes in 2010. What’s more worrying is that car accidents increased by 10% after cannabis was legalized in Colorado.
6 Ways To Prevent a DUI During the Holidays
If you are hosting a party this holiday season, it’s necessary to set a good example. There are many things you can do to prepare and organize that ensures everyone remains safe.
Here are six tips to prevent a DUI during the holidays:
1. You Can’t Sober Up Quickly
Understand that there is no way to sober up quickly once you are already intoxicated. Sobering up quickly is a myth, and no amount of coffee, water, cold showers or anything else will speed up the time it takes to overcome the intoxication.
The body must fully process the alcohol and it takes one hour to metabolize each serving of alcohol. Knowing that you might have to drive at some point, the only safe way is to limit alcohol intake and stop drinking alcohol way in advance of the time you must drive.
2. Provide Safe Alternatives to Driving Drunk
If you’re throwing a party with alcohol, ensure that guests have a safe way to get home. If you are the sober person you could offer a ride home for your guests, or arrange taxis so that nobody who has had too much alcohol gets behind the wheel of a car.
Most people have an Uber or Lyft account, but they have to use it to be safe. Make sure that your guests arrange for a ride, and it’s even possible to arrange a ride for other people on your own app so that guests get home safely.
3. Take Guest’s Keys Before They Start Drinking
If you know your guests will be drinking alcohol or using marijuana, take their keys before they start and keep them until it’s time to leave. If you know they are sober, you can give them back when they are ready to leave.
Some people may think they are sober enough to drive, but alcohol can fool many people into a false sense of security and trick them into thinking they are good, when in fact they are not. For these people, arrange a safe ride for them and help them get their car back the next day.
They may give you a hard time in the moment only to thank you the next day when they sober up and realize they were too drunk to drive the night before.
4. Offer a Bed or Couch For Guests to Spend the Night
If you have the space, you can offer guests a bed or couch to sleep on until the next day when they have sobered up. It’s quite common to have guests spend the night during the holidays and it actually makes things more fun because the host and guests won’t have to worry about driving home under the influence, or in bad weather.
Let everyone know in advance that you have plenty of room to stay the night and prepare pillows and blankets ahead of the party so you aren’t scrambling at the last minute to accommodate everyone.
5. Have Non-Alcoholic Drinks Available
Offer a variety of healthy food and snacks, plenty of water, and non-alcoholic drinks at the party for those who choose not to drink.
Non-alcoholic drinks or “mocktails” offer a safe alternative to drinking and will help overcome dehydration. Food and snacks can reduce stomach irritation and minimize the effects of alcohol to keep blood alcohol concentration levels lower.
Related: 7 Meaningful Ways to Enjoy Sober Holidays [Expert Guide]
6. Designated Driver
If you don’t drink alcohol at all, or won’t be drinking alcohol, you could serve as a designated driver for others so that they can drink without driving.
If you plan to drink yourself, find a friend or family member who doesn’t drink or won’t be drinking and have them serve as the designated driver.
Many bars and restaurants offer discounts or free non-alcoholic beverages for designtated drivers. If you have group of friends you regularly go out with, take turns being the designated driver for the group.
The best way to ensure you are not involved in a DUI is to remain sober for all, or part of December. This will prevent you from driving under the influence, save your life as well as the life of others, and allow you to enjoy the holidays guilt-free.
It is possible to have fun without alcohol (or marijuana), and many people have stopped drinking or using altogether for health reasons, or because they previously had a problem with substances.
The December holidays are a time to enjoy the company of family and friends, and it is also a time when many parties and festivities take place.
Recognize National Impaired Driving Prevention Month in December as a way to be mindful of driving under the influence of alcohol or marijuana to stay safe, and ensure the safety of others on the road.