Dangers of Impaired Driving During the Holidays

Helping Families. Supporting Communities. Empowering Individuals.

12/22/2010

Since 1975, more than 190,000 lives have been saved through increased awareness and legislation related to impaired driving.

The Illinois Department of Human Services' (IDHS) Division of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse (DASA) reminds Illinoisans that the holiday season is an especially dangerous time for motorists. Although the season is a time to celebrate, DASA encourages people to not be influenced to take illicit drugs and to drink responsibly.

A new survey by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) indicates that on average, 13.2 percent of all persons 16 or older drove under the influence of alcohol and 4.3 percent of this age group drove under the influence of illicit drugs in the past year (approximately 10.1 million persons). In Illinois, while the trend of those driving under the influence has decreased from 16.1 percent to 14.7 percent, there were still more than 300 alcohol-impaired driving fatalities on Illinois roads in 2009.

"Hundreds of people die each year from drunk or drugged driving. Driving under the influence of alcohol or illicit drugs can impair the necessary brain functions needed for safe driving," said Theodora Binion-Taylor, Director, DASA. "While the message around this time of year tends to focus on drunk driving, we want Illinoisans to also be aware of the dangers of driving under the influence of both legal and illegal drugs. If you feel that someone is not in the right state to drive home, please be sure to find alternative transportation."

By 2008, all 50 States passed laws making it illegal to drive with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or higher. In addition, a review of several studies found that between 5 and 25 percent of drivers nationwide involved in motor vehicle accidents tested positive for drugs, and 18 percent of motor vehicle driver deaths involved drugs.

IDHS recommends these important "What To Do" tips courtesy of SAMHSA to remember for the holiday season:

  1. Be a responsible Host
    • Entertain guests with music, games, dancing, food and lively conversation rather than making alcohol the main attraction.
    • Provide guests with plenty of non-alcoholic beverages, including fresh water.
    • Provide guests with nutritious and appealing foods to slow the effects of alcohol. High protein and carbohydrate foods like cheese and meats stay in the stomach much longer, which slows the rate at which the body absorbs alcohol. Avoid salty foods, which encourage people to drink more
    • Stop serving drinks at least 1 hour before the end of the event. Instead, serve coffee, non-alcoholic beverages and desserts at that time.
  2. Be responsible for yourself
    • Give yourself realistic limits about what you can and cannot drink.
    • Do not partake in Illegal drugs at parties.
    • Be careful of mixing alcohol with legal and prescription drugs
    • If you know you are going to drink, be sure to secure a responsible driver before you get to the party
    • Keep the phone numbers of several cab companies handy
    • Wear your seatbelt

Visit the U.S. Department of Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website for Party Planning Tips for a Alcohol-Safe and Drug-Free Planning Guide (pdf). This planning guide includes non-alcoholic drink recipes and is provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

IDHS/DASA supports and offers treatment services for alcoholism & addiction through an extensive treatment provider network throughout the State of Illinois. For more information, contact the IDHS helpline at 1-800-843-6154. For TTY, contact 1-800-447-6404.