December is National Impaired Driving Prevention Month. It began in 1981 under Reagan and titled National Drunk And Drugged Driving Prevention Month. It aims to curb impaired driving to save lives. So why December? The National Association of Drug Court Professionals describes December as one of the deadliest and most dangerous times on America’s roadways due to an increase in impaired driving.

As the CDC puts it, persons who drive while impaired by alcohol or other drugs are a public health hazard to themselves and to others. Accordingly, the injuries, disabilities, and deaths associated with impaired driving are a major preventable public health problem.

Unfortunately, men’s addiction rates in Orange County have been increasing which translates to more drunk or drug-impaired drivers on our roads. And there are also increasing amounts of men who are impaired with both drugs and drink. Drunk Driving Stats provides an alarming stat about men and drugs, saying that in 2010, men were behind the wheel for four out of every five DUIs. This high-risk group may only consist of eleven percent of adult males between 21-34 years of age, but it is responsible for a whopping 32% of all drunk driving arrests. Binge drinkers also fall into this group – and males who drank a minimum of five alcoholic drinks caused 85% of all reporter DUIs.

According to statistics provided by Just Think Twice, a DEA website:

  • Drunk driving crashes continue to represent roughly one-third of fatalities, resulting in 9,967 deaths in 2014
  • Alcohol-impaired motor vehicle crashes cost more than an estimated $37 billion annually
  • Drunk driving is often a symptom of a larger problem: alcohol misuse and abuse
  • Drivers at a blood alcohol level of 0.08 percent, the legal limit in every state, were about four times more likely to crash than sober drivers
  • In the 2013-2014 National Roadside Survey of Alcohol and Drug Use by Drivers by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, drivers were tested for a large number of potentially impairing drugs using both oral fluid (saliva) and blood samples. Marijuana (THC) was the only single category of drug for which study findings reached statistical significance.  
  • Marijuana users were about 25 percent more likely to be involved in a crash than drivers with no evidence of marijuana use. Other factors—such as age and gender—appear to account for the increased crash risk amount marijuana users.  
  • Any drug–whether illegal, filled by a prescription or over-the-counter can impair a person’s ability to safely operate a vehicle.  
  • Many US teenagers have willingly accepted a ride from a drunk driver within the past year, a new survey reveals. Nearly one in three teens surveyed—30 percent—said during the previous 12 months they had accepted a ride from someone who’d been drinking alcohol. Further, one in four said they’d be willing to ride with a driver who has been drinking. 
  • “Tweeners” who think marijuana is acceptable may be more likely to drive drunk or ride with a drunk driver when they reach high school, a new study suggests. The researchers followed nearly 1,200 US middle school students from 2009 to 2013. The kids were assessed at ages 12, 14 and 16. 
  • Each day in the United States, more than nine people are killed and more than 1,153 people are injured in crashes that are reported to involve a distracted driver.

If you or the person who is driving you is in any way under the influence of drugs or drink, there are a number of safe ways to get to where you need to go including Lyft, train, bus, or even the MADD Rideshare. And here in Costa Mesa, there’s also the Team Lift and Scooter approaches provided by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence OC.

American Alliance Drug Testing gives a few simple tips for celebrating and driving safely this holiday season, including:

  • Designate a non-drinking driver ahead of time.
  • If drinking alcohol at a party or other celebration, allow at least one hour between drinks. It takes one hour to get rid of one drink from your body (1 drink is equal to a 12-oz beer, a 5-oz glass of wine or 1½-oz shot of liquor).
  • Set limits beforehand of the number of drinks to have and stick with it.
  • Alternate drinking alcoholic beverages with soda, juice or water and eat food.
  • Don’t mix alcohol with other drugs, including over-the-counter and prescription medications.
  • Don’t ride with someone who is impaired. Use other means of transportation such as a taxi, public transportation or driver who is sober.

Team Lift has two people come to where you are in their vehicle. One drives you home in your car while the other follows in their car. They get you home and then they both ride off together in their car. The Scooter approach is where a person arrives on a special scooter that folds up and fits into a nice, compact carrying bag.  They then stow the scooter in your trunk and drive you home in your car.  They then unpack the scooter and ride off to their next client.

If you’ve been clean and sober yourself for a while now, perhaps you can donate your time to one of these programs and volunteer to help drive people home who are too inebriated. Your help won’t go unnoticed and you’ll also feel a sense of purpose.

So be smart – not just this December but all the time. And do what you can to keep impaired drivers off the streets.