December is National Drugged and Drunk Driving Prevention Month

The holiday season between Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve is one of the busiest on the nation's roadways and also one of the most dangerous, due to a high incidence of drug and alcohol-related traffic crashes.

That's why the Arizona Automobile Association is joining with other national, state and local highway safety and law enforcement officials to remind everyone this holiday season to always designate a sober driver before each holiday party or event involving alcohol.

"The holiday season is supposed to be a time for family, friends, and festive celebrations, but it is unfortunately also a time when we see a tragic jump in the number of drug and alcohol-related highway fatalities each year between Thanksgiving and New Year's," said Linda Gorman, public affairs manager for AAA Arizona. "That's why we are out early reminding everyone this holiday season, if you catch a buzz, catch a ride."

The statistics are alarming ‹

• Across the United States, an alcohol-related crash kills someone approximately every 31 minutes and injures someone approximately every two minutes.

• According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, about three in every 10 Americans will be involved in an alcohol-related crash at some point in their lives.

• Drugs other than alcohol (such as marijuana and cocaine) are involved in about 18 percent of motor vehicle driver deaths across the country. These other drugs are generally used in combination with alcohol.

• In the state of Arizona in 2005, more than 5,766 people were injured and 233 people were killed in alcohol-related highway crashes.

• In the state of Arizona, 1,319 people were killed in alcohol-related crashes from 2001 to 2005.

• In Arizona, drunk drivers accounted for approximately 22 percent of all fatalities in 2005.

• The trend seems to be worsening for Arizona. From 2004 to 2005, there was a 13 percent increase in fatalities involving blood alcohol levels of .08 percent or greater. What's worse, there was a 17 percent increase involving blood alcohol levels of .15 percent or greater.

Driving while impaired or riding with someone who is impaired is simply not worth the risk. The consequences are serious and real. Not only do you risk killing yourself or someone else, but the trauma and financial costs of a crash or an arrest for driving while impaired can be really significant and not the way you want to spend your holiday season.

Here are some helpful tips for a safe and happy holiday celebration ‹

• Appoint a designated driver. In the state of Arizona, the legal limit of impairment is .08 but you don't have to have a BAC of .08 to be impaired.

• Don't force alcoholic drinks on your guests and serve a variety of non-alcoholic drinks for designated drivers.

• Serve protein-rich and starchy foods to help retard alcohol consumption.

• Slow down! Holiday travelers are often in a hurry to get to their destination. Allow yourself some extra time for crowded roads.

Finally, please remember that friends don't let friends drive drunk. Take the keys and never let a friend leave your sight if you think they are about to drive while impaired. Call a cab, or insist a guest who has had too much to drink stay overnight. Let's enjoy creating new and heartwarming memories of this holiday season. Let's not mar the holidays by creating a tragedy our loved ones will never forget.

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