Did you know that December is one of the deadliest months of the year for impaired driving accidents?
According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), the holiday season from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day is recognized as “the highest crash fatality time of the year.” During Christmas, about 39 percent of all traffic-related deaths result from alcohol-impaired driving; during New Year’s, that rate skyrockets to 50 percent (Source).
Tragically, the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration (NHTSA) reported a staggering 210 deaths from drunk driving accidents alone during the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day in 2019. During that year as a whole, over 10,000 people died from drunk driving crashes. Then, in 2020, over 11,500 people were killed in similar horrific accidents (Source). Based on these drunk driving rates and fatalities, estimates now show that around “29 people in the United States die in motor vehicle crashes that involve alcohol-impaired drivers” every day (Source). This means that one drunk-driving death occurs every 50 minutes.
Sadly, traffic deaths continue to be on the rise, with an increasing number of them potentially being due to — or exacerbated by — the influence of Potentially Driver-Impairing (PDI) drugs like marijuana, opioids, or cocaine. Though it is difficult to measure how many crashes are caused by drug impairment, studies estimate that “almost 44 percent of drivers in fatal car crashes tested positive for drugs” in 2016 (Source). More recently, studies on trauma center patients from October to December 2020 revealed that around 56 percent of “drivers involved in serious injury and fatal crashes” had tested positive for at least one drug (Source).
Possibly the most disturbing fact about these statistics — and the thousands of resulting tragedies — is that it’s all preventable. The drunk and/or drugged drivers who caused these accidents chose to (or were allowed to) get behind the wheel after becoming driving impaired, ultimately resulting in the death of themselves or others.
So, what can we do as a community to make a positive difference?
Campaigns for Promoting Personal Responsibility & Safe Driving During the Holidays
Multiple nationwide campaigns have been launched to (1) draw attention to this scarily prevalent issue and (2) combine efforts toward educating the public on responsible driving habits and accident prevention. Multiple campaigns span the holiday season to address two of the most celebrated and deadliest days of the year, Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.
The U.S. government has formally recognized the following awareness and media campaigns in a November 30th, 2022, Proclamation:
National Impaired Driving Prevention Month
Every December, we observe National Impaired Driving Prevention Month to raise awareness, educate about the risks of impaired driving, and strategize ways to help everyone on the road make it home safely. In short, we want to teach that “taking personal responsibility for a safe ride saves lives” (Source).
Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over / If You Feel Different, You Drive Different
The NHTSA’s Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over and If You Feel Different, You Drive Different media campaigns also occur during the holiday season, from December 18th through January 1st. These campaigns partner with local law enforcement agencies to spread education about the dangers and consequences of driving drunk and/or high. They also provide a deterrent by emphasizing how “law enforcement will be stepping up patrols to get impaired drivers off the roads” (Source).
Tips for Safe Driving Practices: “Drive Safe, Arrive Alive”
All three campaigns highlight six important safety tips for staying safe and driving responsibly, especially during social holiday functions:
- Plan ahead and make smart choices for how you will get home safely;
- Designate a responsible driver who will commit to staying 100 percent sober to ensure everyone gets home safely;
- Do not drive if you have consumed or smoked an impairing substance, even if you “feel fine” to drive;
- Do not allow impaired persons to drive themselves or others;
- Ensure your guests have a safe ride home from any gathering you’re hosting;
- Call 911 immediately if you see or suspect an impaired driver on the road (Source).
Looking for more information? Click the links below to read more blogs about impaired driving and safety awareness:
- Holiday Safety 101: Preparing for Safe Holiday Travel and Commutes
- A New Year’s Resolution All Drivers Should Make
- The Increase in Auto Accident Deaths
- “Drive high, get a DUI”: Missouri launches first 420 drugged-driving enforcement campaign
- When does the Designated Driver Have a Heightened Responsibility to Her Passengers?