New Year’s is just around the corner, and it’s one holiday that most of us celebrate as we review, casually or formally, what we’ve done in the past and consider what improvements we might actually follow through on in the coming year.
The timing is appropriate. December is National Impaired Driving Prevention Month (President Barack Obama made the proclamation in 2015), and because the ending of the year abuts New Year’s Eve — an event associated with revelry — I’d like to offer a suggestion not just for this holiday period but rather one for the entire year.
Don’t drive while impaired. Period. This is a New Year’s Resolution that I’m going to suggest that everyone should embrace. It receives special attention during New Year’s Eve, when the festivities associated with the welcoming of the new calendar year reach their peak. But common sense and community duty to the idea of safety are ideas that should be with us always.
In the past, we often associated driving impaired with the idea of the misuse of alcohol. There was reason for this concern, and it persists to the present for good reason.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2014:
- there were 9,967 fatalities in motor vehicle traffic crashes involving a driver with a BAC [blood alcohol level] of .08 g/dL or higher;
- this was 31 percent of total traffic fatalities for the year;
- an average of one alcohol-impaired driving fatality occurred every 53 minutes in 2014.
- the estimated economic cost of alcohol-impaired-driving crashes in the United States in 2010 (the most recent year for which cost data are available) was $44 billion.
- The NHTSA regards driving a vehicle while impaired as a “dangerous crime.”
However, the broader problem is now recognized, and while alcohol is the most common problem associated with impaired driving for many, there are other candidates. Here are a few examples.
- Any drug, whether illegal, filled by a prescription or over-the-counter, can impair a person’s ability to operate a vehicle safely. I have a friend who had to undergo a medical procedure recently, and the doctor administered an anesthetic. When he woke up from the anesthetic, the discharge nurse went through a list of rules, including not driving a vehicle for 24 hours.
- Driving while distracted is also being impaired even if no alcohol or drugs are involved. DON’T text and drive and don’t allow a telephone conversation to distract you during the important responsibility of driving safely.
- There is an added caveat for passengers. If you believe that your driver is impaired, it’s your duty to draw it to his or her attention. If they fail to heed your warning, don’t allow yourself to be a passenger under any circumstances.
I want everyone to send out December on a happy note and welcome the New York Year on a positive note. Let that begin by being a conscientious and unimpaired driver. That will make for a safer you and others, too.
Have a Happy & Safe New Year. That’s my take, what’s yours?