Play it safe

To the Editor:

The holiday season is in full swing, and for most folks, it is a wonderful time marked by family gatherings and festive events, as well as starting new or maintaining long-held, traditions. Most likely your calendar has filled up with office parties, open houses, “ugly sweater” contests and family events. Why is it that we carefully plan out the gifts we’ll buy, the clothes we’ll wear, the food we’ll make, and the parties we’ll attend, but we don’t always plan ahead for how we’ll get home safely after events where we may be drinking?

December is National Impaired Driving Month. As recently as 2013, the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimated an average of 28 people died every day from accidents caused by drunk driving. Between Thanksgiving and New Year, a period of time commonly labeled the “Driving Under the Influence Season,” NHTSA research shows this number may increase to as high as 54 deaths every day. In December 2012, there were 830 people killed in drunk driving crashes in the United States. During the holidays, 31 percent of all crash fatalities were related to drunk driving, and a shocking 23 percent involved very drunk drivers with a blood alcohol content of .15 or higher, which is almost twice the legal limit. This uptick of drunk and impaired driving not only increases nationally, but it also does so in our local communities.

While celebrating this holiday season and before you take your first sip of alcohol, determine how you’ll get home safely.

Plan: Where are you going? Who are you going with? How are you getting home?

Prepare: Eat, drink water and make sure you take just enough money to have a good time. Consider leaving the credit cards at home.

Pace: Limit how much you drink in a night. Please remember that there are always safe alternatives available. If you’re not with a designated driver, you always can call a friend or family member, or call a taxi. The statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration tell us that too many people don’t understand the seriousness of the problem. Too many people are taking their lives, and the lives of innocent others, into their own hands by driving after drinking. By planning, preparing and pacing, you can enjoy the celebrations of the holiday season while protecting the health and safety of yourself, your loved ones and our community. Here’s to a joyful, safe and healthy holiday season!

Denise Black

Healthy Acadia, Drug Free Communities Project Coordinator

Bar Harbor

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