‘Tis the season for safe driving 

Edward-Elmhurst Health asks in its Healthy Driven Blog, “Have you ever gotten behind the wheel after having a few drinks?” Each time you do, whether you admit it or not, you put your life and other people’s lives at risk. You may think the worst can’t happen, but it can. And one of these days, it could happen to you or someone you love.

December marks National Impaired Driving Prevention Month. This is fitting, since year after year around the holidays, hundreds of people lose their lives in impaired driving crashes.

Yet, it’s not just the holidays but all year long that we need to be responsible behind the wheel.

Every day, 28 people in this country die in alcohol-impaired driving crashes — that’s one person every 53 minutes, reports the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). About one-third of traffic deaths in the United States involve a drunk driver. These are all preventable tragedies.

We all know the age-old saying: don’t drink and drive. But today, impaired driving means more. It includes distracted driving, such as texting while driving, and something else that’s often overlooked — drugged driving.

Illegal drugs, prescription drugs, and even over-the-counter medications can be just as deadly on the road as alcohol. Recent research shows how prevalent drugged driving has become in the U.S. Both alcohol and drugs impair your ability to drive safely by affecting your judgment, concentration, perception, motor skills, and reaction time.

New and young drivers are the most at-risk for impaired driving-related crashes, as car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens, and about a quarter involve an underage drinking driver. Learn signs your teen may be abusing alcohol. 

Deaths caused by impaired driving are avoidable. But some drunk drivers aren’t learning their lesson. In 2012, more than half of drunk drivers in fatal crashes had at least one previous DUI conviction. One explanation is that drunk driving is often a symptom of a larger problem of an alcohol use disorder, reports the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence.

This holiday, and all year long, make a pledge to always drive sober and avoid distractions. If you need help for drug or alcoholism, get it. No one should lose a loved one as a result of impaired driving. It’s reckless. It’s avoidable. It’s not worth it.

Remember, if you have been drinking, there’s always another way to get home safely. Before you attend that holiday party, make a plan to get home safely. Designate a sober driver. Take a bus or train. Save the number for a taxi in your phone so it’s ready when you need it. Or, plan on just staying put.

Help others be responsible, too. If someone you know is drinking, don’t let them drive. When you are on the road, be vigilant about other drivers around you. If you see an impaired driver, call the police. You could save a life.

Parents, talk to your kids about the dangers of impaired driving. Get tips for talking to your teen about drugs and alcohol.

If you or a family member needs help with drug or alcohol addiction, you aren’t alone. Get help for addiction from Linden Oaks Behavioral Health.

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