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Drinking, driving not worth risks;

By Jean Bullard | | December 19, 2002

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With more people expected to travel on America's highways during this extended holiday season, it could be one of the deadliest periods ever for impaired driving fatalities.
As part of the "You Drink & Drive. You Lose" National Mobilization, Risk Management Office and safety personnel from every sector are working to protect everyone from impaired drivers during this busy time of the year. From Dec. 20 to Jan. 5 local and state officials will be out in full force conducting sobriety checkpoints and saturation patrols throughout the community to arrest and prosecute these criminals to the fullest extent of the law.
There will be no warnings. The message is simple - "You Drink and Drive. You Lose."  Violators can lose their licenses, time from their jobs, and money in high fines and court costs as well as the possibility of facing imprisonment for repeat offenses, assault and vehicular manslaughter. Refuse a blood alcohol concentration test and you can lose your license on the spot and your car will be impounded. You'll spend your money on bail and towing fees instead of holiday gifts.
After years of gradual improvement, fatalities in alcohol-related crashes are on the rise nationally. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that in 2000, 17,380 people were killed in alcohol-related crashes, representing approximately 41 percent of the 41,945 total traffic fatalities. In 2001, 17,448 people were killed in alcohol-related crashes; again representing 41 percent of the 42,116 people killed in all traffic crashes.
Personnel in the Risk Management Office reminds everyone if you find it hard to figure out if you've had too many drinks to drive - don't risk it. Impairment begins with the first drink and impaired driving is against the law. Most likely if you're feeling "buzzed," you are impaired, and if you drive law enforcement will likely catch you. 
Studies from the NHTSA show that the majority of Americans consider drunk driving one of the nation's most important social issues, ahead of healthcare, poverty/hunger, racism and education. Nearly 97 percent of Americans view drunk driving as a major threat to the community. As a result, the majority of Americans support increased use of enforcement efforts such as saturation patrols and sobriety checkpoints to protect innocent victims.
Furthermore, two-thirds of Americans also strongly endorse the use of stricter and more severe penalties against drunk drivers.
Nine out of 10 Americans who participate in social events where alcohol is served feel that people should use designated drivers. Party hosts should include alcohol-free beverages and protein-rich foods, along with reminding guests to plan ahead.
Common Sense Reminders:
 Don't risk it - if you plan to drive, don't drink.
 Choose a sober designated driver before partying.
 When supporting alcohol sales at the MCCS clubs, ask the bartender for a Last Callª breath alcohol detector and check your sobriety before you depart.
 Take a taxicab or ask a friend to drive you home if you didn't plan in advance.
 Spend the night where the activity is being held.
 Report impaired drivers to law enforcement.
The "You Drink & Drive. You Lose" National Mobilization, launched in December 1999, is a comprehensive impaired driving prevention effort focused on highly visible criminal justice-related efforts to deter impaired driving and is designed for use by states and communities to save lives. Thanks to the tremendous efforts of thousands of devoted public and private partners, more than 150 million Americans have been reached through newspapers, the Internet, and from radio and television broadcasts.


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