Holidays a Time of Premature Deaths on America’s Highways

Holidays a Time of Celebration, Good Cheer and Premature Deaths on America’s Highways

Every year on Christmas Eve, good old Saint Nick delivers hundreds of millions of presents to children all around the world. That is quite a task to complete in just one day, and yet this rotund, jolly fellow somehow manages to get the job done each and every time.

But can you imagine how difficult this would be if Santa tried to do everything while under the influence of drugs or alcohol? Most likely he’d end up crashing his sleigh into a snowbank before he got more than a mile from the North Pole, leaving the world’s children with nothing but empty stockings, shattered hearts and broken dreams.

Fortunately, Santa knows better. But the same thing can’t be said for the tens of millions of Americans who, during the winter holiday season, foolishly choose to drive their cars after they have consumed alcoholic beverages or some other type of intoxicant. Thankfully the days when drinking and driving over Christmas and New Year’s was common and socially accepted have long since passed. But even in these more enlightened times, impaired driving, whether under the influence of alcohol or some other mind-altering substance, is still a potent and unsentimental killer that strikes much more frequently on holidays.

Drinking and driving is a reckless activity 365 days a year. But during the month of December it reaches a whole new level of stupid. Trying to guide a two-and-a-half ton metal machine down a slick, ice-and-snow-covered roadway at speeds approaching 60 miles an hour is a tricky proposition under the best of circumstances. By trying to do it after consuming a few too many cocktails—or just a few cocktails, period—is a feat best left un-attempted.

And yet millions of “responsible” adults and teens with minimal driving experience will indeed attempt it, most frequently on or right around Christmas and New Year’s. A person doing this who manages to make it home without wrapping his or her car around a telephone pole is more lucky than good, and that is the sort of luck that shouldn’t be pushed.

Silent Night, Deadly Night

The National Safety Council reports that about 31 percent of traffic fatalities are related to drunk or impaired driving. But during the winter holiday season this percentage takes a significant leap upward, from 35 percent over Christmas to about 42 percent on New Year’s Eve/New Year’s Day. No other holiday observance has as high a percentage of impaired drivers involved in automobile accidents as the New Year’s celebration, making it a uniquely dangerous occasion for those who do choose to hit the roadways in search of companionship and a good time.

In comparison to the rest of December, drunk or impaired driving rises by about 40 percent within the immediate proximity of Christmas Day and 60 percent around the New Year’s holiday. Young people in the 21 to 24 age group comprise the highest percentage of impaired drivers on Christmas and New Year’s, and estimates are that underage drinkers account for 10 percent to 20 percent of the alcohol consumed during each winter holiday season.

One helpful factor in 2014-2015 is that both Christmas and New Year’s Day fall on Thursdays, and midweek holidays always help to keep traffic accidents and fatalities down. Holidays that fall on weekends allow for more time off from work and more time for celebrating—and that unfortunately means more people will get behind the wheel of an automobile in a less-than-sober condition.

Playing It Smart, Playing It Safe, Playing It Sober

The most important thing to remember during the holidays is that drinking and driving is an inherently dangerous activity, regardless of whether a driver is over an arbitrary legal limit. In any amount, alcohol and drug use impair a person’s ability to execute the maneuvers and procedures required to safely operate a motor vehicle. Drinking, drugging and driving do not mix at any time of year.

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