The holiday season is here, a time of year for parties and gatherings with friends, family and coworkers. Often these festivities include alcohol, resulting in some party-goers finding themselves drunk with no safe ride home.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 885 people nationwide lost their lives in traffic crashes involving a drunk driver during the month of December in 2017. From 2013 to 2017, there were 4,110 people killed across the country in December crashes that involved drivers with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) over the legal limit of .08 grams per deciliter (g/dL).
In Kansas, drunk driving continues to be a significant danger on the roads:
• 1,993 alcohol-related vehicle crashes accounted for 90 of the total 461 fatalities, or 19.5 percent, in 2017.
• An alcohol-related crash occurred every 4.40 hours in Kansas in 2017.
• There was a death every 97.33 hours due to an alcohol-related crash in 2017 on Kansas roads.
• During the Christmas and New Year’s reporting periods from 2013 through 2017, there were 278 alcohol-related crashes, resulting in about 150 injuries and 4 deaths.
So it’s not surprising that December has been designated National Impaired Driving Prevention Month, by a proclamation from the President, to help bring attention to the dangers of not only drunk driving but drugged driving as well, which has become a growing risk on our nation’s roadways. Drivers need to remember that not only illicit drugs but also prescription and over-the-counter medications could impair their ability to drive safely.
AAA Kansas reminds drivers that they must not neglect their responsibilities to drive sober or not drive at all if they have been drinking. Have a game plan before heading out the door. These days, there is NO excuse to get behind the wheel while buzzed or drunk when there are so many alternative options to get home safely – designated driver, public transportation, taxi, and ride-hailing services, such as Uber and Lyft.
And, as a last resort, don’t forget the phone call to a sober family member for a ride home. While you may be putting family out, they will be thankful that they received a phone call from you rather than a knock at the door from a police officer.
Be the responsible host if it is your party: keep plenty of food and non-alcoholic beverage options on hand and be prepared to take the keys away from any of your impaired guests and arrange for them to get home safely or make them spend the night on your sofa.
Kansas law enforcement is stepping up patrols throughout the holiday season into the New Year to keep our roads safe and free from impaired drivers. If motorists see a driver on the road who appears to be drunk, they should ask their passenger to call 911 or pull over to a safe spot on the side of the road to make the call.
Let’s all work together to help keep this holiday season merry and bright by preventing needless tragedies on Kansas’ roads.
Shawn Steward, AAA Kansas