Mark Avera: Holidays Are Reminder to Drink Responsibly

by Mark Avera

The holiday season is a joyful reminder of the blessings of family, friends and enjoyable times together. As people reflect on the year that was and look ahead to 2017, it’s often accompanied by a celebratory drink, or two.

There is, however, a stark and sad reality to the holiday season each year. In 2015, there were an estimated 1,600 alcohol-related driving deaths in the U.S. during the period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. An exponentially higher number of people were seriously injured.

It is important not to drive after any alcohol consumption. Getting behind the wheel of a car after drinking can be both life changing and life ending.

I have met with many people over the years who lost a loved one to a drunk driver. They have described to me how they received the news that a spouse, a parent or a child was killed. It usually starts with an unexpected knock at the door, the unfamiliar sound of a police radio, followed by the horrific news that drops them to their knees in shock and grief. The following days and weeks involve grief-stricken, sleepless nights and indescribable loneliness with the realization that they will never see the smile of their loved one again.

It only takes the average male two to three drinks to exceed the Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) legal limit, while the average female may reach it with one to two drinks. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, BAC levels higher than .08 can cause slowed reaction time, impaired perception, poor muscle coordination and reduced ability to maintain lane positions and brake appropriately.

Even at legal levels below .08, a person can have impaired judgment, a decline in visual functions, reduced coordination, lowered alertness and inability to perform multiple tasks. In other words, just one drink can greatly reduce driving abilities.

You are responsible for your own vehicle as well as drivers to whom you give your vehicle to drive. So before you plan those holiday and New Year’s festivities, take the time to also think about how you – and your guests – will be getting there and back safely.

Discuss someone in your group of friends or family being a designated driver. Mothers Against Drunk Driving provides a clever coupon on its website that you can present specifying that you are the safe ride home for the evening. If you have a driver under 21 in the family, let them be the driver for the evening.

Read the original article published on The Gainesville Sun.