(Williams County) In November the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released the official traffic fatality statistics for 2014, including fatalities tied to alcohol-related crashes. Last year drunk driving deaths fell to 9,967, finally dropping below 10,000 for the first time since 2011. Overall traffic fatalities also declined.
NHTSA tempered the good news about the drop in deaths with some cautionary notes. First, drunk driving deaths still make up about one-third of all traffic fatalities—a proportion that has remained largely unchanged for many years. Critics argue that the consistency of this proportion could mean that drops in alcohol-involved traffic deaths might be tied to factors like safer cars and other general improvements in roadway safety versus an actual decline in drunk driving.
In addition, while final 2015 tallies won’t be available until next year, NHTSA reports a troubling trend in the preliminary numbers for this year. Estimates for the first six months of 2015 show an 8.1% increase in traffic fatalities over the same timeframe for 2014. This overall increase could mean that drunk driving deaths in 2015 will also rise.
Let’s say you go to a holiday party, you stay a few hours and have a few drinks. When it’s time to go, you think to yourself, “I’m fine to drive. I’ve only had a few drinks, and I barely feel buzzed.” You get in your car and drive toward home. This act places you at risk of facing the consequences of drunk driving. Buzzed driving places you and others on the road in danger of a crash; or worse, death. Many people wrongly believe there’s a magic number of drinks or hours that determine your blood alcohol concentration (BAC). But it’s different for every person. Many factors go into the effect alcohol has on your body. A major misconception is that you have to be stumbling around drunk to have a high BAC. For many people, it doesn’t take much alcohol to be impaired for driving.
The Williams County Safe Communities Coalition is working with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) this holiday season to reach out to all drivers with an important message about this deadly, preventable crime because Buzzed Driving Is Drunk Driving. Safe Communities urges you to plan ahead: designate a sober driver. If you plan on drinking at all, don’t plan on driving.
To help make the choice not to drink and drive on New Year’s Eve, the annual Safe Ride Home program will be provided as a community service by Grace Community Church in combined effort with WBNO-WQCT Radio Station and Williams County Safe Communities from the Williams County Health Department.
On New Year’s Eve from 9:00 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. volunteers from Grace Community Church will pick you up at any home, party, bar, or organization in Williams County and provide you a safe ride home to locations within Williams County. And, best of all, this service is FREE. You may call 419-636-5449 and reserve a safe ride home before the party or you may call on New Year’s Eve.
According to Shannon Cooley, Administrator at Grace Community Church, last year 40 people were provided with safe rides home on New Year’s Eve. The Safe Ride Home program can help keep our roads safer this year too. Whether you’ve had one or one too many, always hand the keys to a sober driver or call 419-636-5449 on New Year’s Eve for a Safe Ride Home. Remember, it is never okay to drive after drinking. Buzzed Driving Is Drunk Driving. Stay safe by driving sober or by designating a sober driver.
Drivers convicted of DUI have many excuses, but the reality they all have in common is this: they didn’t plan ahead. Designating a sober driver ahead of time is the only fool-proof way to avoid the dangers of drunk driving. If you wait until you’ve been drinking to gauge your level of impairment, it’s already too late. You might tell yourself and others that you’re “okay to drive” when you’re not. Even one drink can impair your judgment and reaction time enough to cause you to overestimate your own abilities as a driver.
So next time you’re going to drink, do us all a favor and make a plan to not drive. Some simple ideas: leave your keys at home or give them to a friend; designate a sober driver who isn’t drinking at all; tell others your intentions about driving and stick to the plan; and most importantly—once you’ve had anything to drink, do not drive. Buzzed Driving Is Drunk Driving, so make the choice: Are you drinking tonight or are you driving?