By Mark Rosekind
Last week, the NTSB issued ten new safety recommendations focused on alcohol-impaired driving that will prevent crashes, reduce injuries, and save lives. This set of targeted interventions calls for stronger laws, swifter enforcement, and expanded use of technology. Some may take months or years to implement, while others will help in the near term to reduce the 10,000 lives lost and 173,000 injuries that occur every year related to alcohol-impaired driving. But there is something that every American can do right now to reduce alcohol-impaired driving: plan ahead and use other transportation options when you drink.
The science is clear – impairment begins with the first drink. By the time a person reaches a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .05, the risk of a crash is 38 percent higher than for a sober driver. Crash risk doubles at a .08 BAC level. So, have a plan to separate drinking from driving.
For example, there are a variety of alternative transportation programs available to drive people home after drinking. A number of cities have special ride programs around key holidays like Halloween, New Year’s Eve, and St. Patrick’s Day. Here in the Washington, D.C., area, there is the SoberRide program. Isanti County, Minnesota, offers the SAFE CAB program, and in my hometown of San Francisco, a similar program called Safe and Sober Free Cab Ride Home is funded by a local law firm. Public transit may also be an option.
Then there are programs like the Ensign John R. Elliott HERO Campaign for Designated Drivers, which highlight the community values of becoming or using a designated driver. Ensign Elliott graduated from the Naval Academy in 2000. On July 22 of that year, while on his way home to celebrate his mom’s birthday, he was killed by a drunk driver. That driver had already been arrested for a DWI earlier in the evening, but he was released and got back in his car drunk, eventually killing himself and Elliott. Prompted by this tragedy and to honor Ensign Elliott, his family started the HERO Campaign to end drunk driving tragedies nationwide by promoting the use of safe and sober designated drivers.
On Monday, we will pause to honor and remember the men and women who gave their lives while serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. Over this Memorial Day weekend many will gather with family and friends, enjoying a barbeque and having a few drinks. This weekend be a HERO and use or be a safe and sober designated driver, use an alternative transportation plan, and most importantly, if you’re drinking, don’t drive.