Safe Celebrations: Navigating the Holidays to Prevent Drunk and Drugged Driving

It is no coincidence that the holiday season coincides with “National Drunk and Drugged Driving Prevention Month.” Because the holidays are a time for gathering, recognizing the achievements of the passing year, celebrating time together, and looking forward to the opportunities the new year will provide, the risk of overindulging or overconsuming increases.

In 2021, 31% of traffic-related deaths, or 13,384 people, were killed in accidents that involved an alcohol-impaired driver. Another 2,266 were killed in alcohol-related crashes where the driver’s blood alcohol level was below the legal limit for impairment. In a 2016 study, almost 21% of drivers involved in a fatal motor vehicle accident tested positive for drugs other than alcohol, including marijuana, opioids, and amphetamines.

In 2021, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), over 13 million people (about twice the population of Arizona) over the age of 16 drove under the influence of alcohol, and almost 12 million reported diving under the influence of drugs, including marijuana.

In 2022, 20 % of drivers reported driving drunk at least occasionally, and 10% of drivers said they frequently drove drunk.

Many of those who drink or use drugs, including marijuana, are overly confident about their ability to operate a vehicle. In one study, just over 40% of marijuana users report that marijuana use has no impact on their driving, while 17% think they are better drivers when they are high. Nearly one-third of men believe that they can safely drive after consuming enough alcohol to exceed the legal limit for impairment. The research suggests that as much as 50% of drinkers think they can drive safely after consuming a quantity of alcohol that is likely to impair their driving ability.

We know that alcohol, marijuana, and other drugs impair our ability to operate a motor vehicle. Most substances affect cognitive and motor function. Marijuana affects your ability to judge time and distance, two factors critical for safe driving. It is crucial to understand that alcohol, marijuana, and other drugs impair our ability to drive. They impact judgment, reaction time, and motor function, putting the driver and everyone else on the road at risk.

Here are some practical tips for a safe and enjoyable holiday season:

  • Plan Ahead: If you are attending a party, arrange a safe ride home beforehand. Use a ride-sharing service, a taxi, or designate a sober driver.
  • Host Responsibly: if you host a gathering, ensure your guests have safe transportation options. Avoid drinking games that encourage excessive alcohol consumption. Serve food and stop serving alcohol well before guests intend to leave. If someone has had too much to drink or is affected by other substance use, help them find a safe alternative transportation option or a place to stay.
  • Look out for others: If you notice someone who has been drinking or using substances and might be unfit to drive, intervene safely and responsibly. Take their keys and arrange a safe way for them to get home or for a place to stay for the night.
  • Report Unsafe Driving: Contact law enforcement if you witness erratic or dangerous driving. Describe the vehicle and, if possible, provide the license plate information. Your action could save lives, including yours and your loved ones or other community members.
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