As the holiday season winds down there is one more big event that many celebrate, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. This is the time of year where we look back on the past year, and look forward to what the New Year holds. There are many this year that will celebrate the end of 2020 and glad to be moving on to 2021, with the hopes that it will see the COVID pandemic subside and life return to more normal activities. Historically, this has been the time of year that parties and spending time with friends and family in social settings is a tradition. This year the hopes are that you will celebrate the arrival of the New Year at home with your family or within your “social bubble”. Please refrain from attending larger social gatherings. This can only lead to the spread of the COVID-19 virus and put your health and safety at risk. Whether at home or with friends, the ringing out of the old year and ringing in the New Year is accompanied with alcohol being served and toasts to a prosperous new year.
Unfortunately, whenever there is alcohol being served, there are those who will take a chance to drive after they have been drinking. This can only lead to tragedy. It is a commonly known fact that there are more alcohol related car accidents on New Year’s Eve than most other nights. Compared to the average weekend night, the 12-hour window between 6 p.m. on Dec. 31st and 6 a.m. on Jan. 1st tends to have about 71% more crashes where alcohol or drugs are listed as a contributing factor. It’s an alarming statistic, but unfortunately it’s also a familiar one. Every 24 hours in the United States, 28 people die in alcohol-related motor vehicle accidents. That works out to be one person every 53 minutes. While the overall rate of drunk driving fatalities is down 33% in the past three decades, we Americans still have a one in three risk of being involved in an alcohol-related crash in the course of our lifetimes.
From an economic standpoint, drunk driving affects all of us. In the United States, the economic impact from deaths and injuries caused by drunk driving costs our country $52 billion per year. That cost, along with the cost of other accidents, raises insurance premiums for every consumer.
With all of this in mind, I want to offer some proactive steps that you can take to help prevent drunk driving.
If you’re going to a party or other event away from your home where alcohol will be served, choose a designated, sober driver before arriving at the event. This helps to ensure that you will have a safe, sober ride home.
If that designated driver doesn’t keep his or her promise to stay sober, arrange another ride home. Ask another friend or family member, call a taxi, walk, take public transportation or arrange an Uber or Lyft ride. There should never be a time where an intoxicated person gets behind the wheel.
Proactively prevent intoxicated people from driving by taking their keys and arranging another ride home for them. They may be mad at you in the moment, but preventing someone from potentially injuring himself or others in an alcohol-related car crash is far more important.
When hosting a party, be sure to offer a selection of non-alcoholic beverages for your guests. Soda, juice, water, coffee and tea are good choices. You can even get creative by making “mocktails” without the added alcohol. This provides your guests with delicious, non-alcoholic alternatives.
If you’re throwing the party, be sure to serve ample food. Having plentiful appetizers or a filling main course for your guests to enjoy will help to mitigate the effects of alcoholic beverages they drink.
In every setting, but especially if you’re the host, be aware of your friends’ alcohol intake and notice any subsequent change in behavior. Be prepared with alternative transportation options if you see that a friend is inebriated, or offer him your sofa where he can spend the night safely until he sobers up.
Never buy alcohol for, or serve alcohol to, minors under the age of 21. It’s against the law. You could be charged criminally.
Remember, if you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem. During this new year’s weekend, you will see Dinwiddie deputies patrolling the county with a special interest in identifying intoxicated drivers and removing them from the highway.
I want to wish you all a happy. healthy and prosperous 2021!