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December 19, 2007 > For Holiday Safety, Don't Mix Drinking and Driving

For Holiday Safety, Don't Mix Drinking and Driving

For most of us, the holidays are a time of fun and frivolity. This includes parties and celebrations that wouldn't be the same without good food and drink, often with alcohol mixed in. To make sure your holidays stay merry and don't end in tragedy, it's critical that you avoid the combination of drinking and driving.
President Bush has proclaimed December National Drunk and Drugged Driving Prevention Month - or "3D Month" for short. Sadly, thousands of people die or are injured in alcohol-related motor vehicle crashes in the U.S. throughout the year. It is especially unfortunate when these tragedies occur during the holidays.
"At holiday time, we always see a significant increase in the number of patients who have been injured in a car crash," says Frank Zeidan, M.D., medical director of Washington Clinic/Fremont and an emergency medicine physician at Washington Hospital. "It's especially distressing because many of these patients are young, most were healthy before the crash, and they are often members of the same family. Alcohol is more frequently involved in crashes during the holidays than at other times of the year."
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Commission, someone is killed in an alcohol-related motor vehicle crash every 31 minutes and non-fatal injuries occur every two minutes. Drugs other than alcohol, such as marijuana or cocaine, are involved in about 18 percent of motor vehicle driver deaths. Often, these drugs are being used in combination with alcohol.
In reality, the problem is even more widespread that these statistics indicate. The U.S. Department of Justice reports that, in 2005, nearly 1.4 million drivers were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics. This is just one percent of the 159 million incidents of alcohol-related driving that adults in the U.S. admit to committing each year.
Make the holidays safer for you and your family by never driving when you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs. If you plan to drink alcohol when you are away from home, be sure to appoint a designated driver ahead of time; ask someone who has not been drinking to give you a lift home; or take a taxi.
Despite your best efforts, you cannot account for the behavior of other drivers who share the road. By paying extra attention to seat belt rules for yourself and any child passengers, you can help prevent severe physical injury. This is especially true for traumatic brain injuries, a common result of serious motor vehicle crashes.
"Many people who are treated in the emergency room after a car crash have suffered head trauma, which can be potentially fatal or lead to long term disability," explains Dr. Zeidan. "The likelihood of a traumatic brain injury occurring, or that it will be severe, is substantially diminished when adults and children wear seat belts or proper restraints."
Remember basic seat belt rules:
* Wear a seat belt every time you drive or ride in a motor vehicle.
* Buckle up your child in the car using a child safety seat, booster seat or seat belt, according to the child's height, weight and age.
This year and every year, make your holidays both fun and safe by using seat belts and staying away from the deadly combination of alcohol, drugs and driving.

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