The holiday season is upon us again. It is a time when most find enhanced feelings of love, joy and giving.

Holiday spirit also can negatively affect people. Not spirits tied to emotions, but alcohol spirits found at parties. These spirits, when consumed by a person who then drives a motor vehicle, transform an otherwise good citizen into a potential murderer.

Drunk drivers will be responsible for hundreds of fatalities and thousands of injuries around the country this holiday season. Such incidents will destroy this time of year for those forced to face the annual feelings of sadness, despair, and loss, as they grieve for their loved ones who are maimed or were killed by drunk drivers.

To reduce needless death and injury, each of us must take an active part in this season’s efforts to reduce and eliminate drunk driving from our highways.

The safest driver is one who does not drink alcohol. Use a designated driver for the evening. This is the person who commits to not drinking, as he or she will be responsible for driving that night. Naming a designated driver does not mean that all others have a free license to consume alcohol excessively and irresponsibly.

The body can only metabolize about one drink per hour. Consuming more alcohol than that will raise the blood alcohol level. A drink equals a 12-ounce beer, a 5-ounce glass of wine, or about 1.5 ounces of hard liquor. Each of these delivers the same amount of alcohol to the body.

In addition to having a designated driver, wear your seat belt. It’s your best defense against a drunk driver.

Know the signs of an impaired driver

  • wide turns
  • illegal turns
  • straddling lanes
  • weaving or drifting
  • crossing lines or lanes erratically
  • slow responses
  • driving without headlights
  • driving with the windows open or even with the head out the window on very cold evenings
  • late stops at traffic lights or signs
  • driving on the wrong side
  • inappropriate braking or stopping
  • tailgating
  • inconsistent turn signal use
  • driving 10 miles per hour below the posted speed limit
  • driving on the center line or the outer line of the road.

If you have a car phone, call 911 and report all drunk drivers to the police. The life you save might be your own.

Know the truth about drinking. Cold showers and coffee do not sober you up more quickly, only time can. Beer is as intoxicating as wine or hard liquor (i.e. whiskey, vodka, gin, etc.). Even a person below the legal limit of intoxication can be too impaired to drive safely.

Have a contract with your children that they will never drive after drinking or ride with a friend who has consumed alcohol. Instead, ask that they call you for a ride home.

Finally, be a responsible host. Serve foods high in protein. They slow alcohol absorption. If guests refuse an alcoholic beverage, do not push one on them. There might be a medical reason for their abstinence or they may be a designated driver. Respect one’s right to choose not to drink.

Have plenty of jiggers to encourage measuring of alcohol for beverages. Ask bartenders to control the flow of alcohol – it is your home, set the limit. Serve nonalcoholic beverages and close the bar one hour before the party is set to end.

If guests appear intoxicated, call them a cab, give them a ride home or offer them a place to stay overnight. If necessary, take their keys. Friends do not let friends, or others for that matter, drive drunk. Together, we can prevent holiday cheer from becoming holiday mourning.

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