The holiday season between Thanksgiving and the New Year is one of the deadliest and most dangerous times of the year on our nation's roadways because of impaired drivers. The Charles County Sheriff's Office wants to remind citizens to help prevent a tragedy on the roadways by celebrating the holidays responsibly and calling police if they see an intoxicated motorist.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 1,210 people across America, just during the month of December in 2004, were killed in highway crashes involving a driver or motorcycle operator with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of .01 or higher. Of those, 1,054 had an illegal BAC level of .08 or above.
"Our patrol officers will be on the lookout for drunk drivers this holiday season and we encourage our fellow motorists to help us by calling to report drivers they suspect have been drinking," said Charles County Sheriff Frederick E. Davis. "We also encourage people to designate a sober driver before the start to drink and to make sure no one gets behind the wheel impaired."
Every President of the United States since 1981 has demonstrated his commitment to preventing impaired driving by proclaiming December as National Drunk and Drugged Driving (3D) Prevention Month.
The Charles County Sheriff's Office partnered with LifeStyles of Maryland, Inc., to offer citizens a free ride home in the event someone is too intoxicated to drive. By calling Safe Rides, a citizen who has had too much to drink and get a ride home from a LifeStyles driver at no cost. The rides are offered from 8 p.m. to 3 a.m. Dec. 15-January 2 during the holiday season, as well as on St. Patrick's Day, Independence Day and Halloween. The toll-free phone number to contact Sober Rides is 1-866-293-0623.
"Having a program like this is important in our community and I am very grateful to Sandy Washington and the folks at LifeStyles for providing this service," said Sheriff Davis.
LifeStyles funds the program and is looking for volunteer drivers. Anyone interested in signing up as a driver is asked to call the Safe Rides hotline or LifeStyles' general telephone number, 301-609-9900. LifeStyles will also accept donations for Safe Rides, which will help fund fuel costs and printed materials, including vehicle signs to identify vehicles as Safe Rides. Donations are tax deductible and can be made by calling the Sober Rides hotline or the LifeStyles office.
Always designating a sober driver, using Sober Rides and not letting friends drive drunk are only two of several simple steps that can be taken to help avoid a tragic crash or an arrest for impaired driving. Those who are too intoxicated to drive could also spend the night where the activity is being held and sleep it off.
Anyone who is organizing or hosting a holiday party and plans on serving alcoholic beverages should remind their guests to designate their sober driver in advance and make sure all their guests leave with a sober driver at the end of the party. Having the phone number for Safe Rides handy will also be helpful.
Finally, an important law for all motorists to remember is to buckle up and ensure all child passengers are properly buckled up as well. Safety belts save lives in crashes.
"Impaired driving is not an accident and it is not a victimless crime," said Sheriff Davis. "It is one of America's deadliest problems."
In 2004, more than 15,000 people died in alcohol-related crashes involving a driver or a motorcycle operator with a BAC level of .01 or higher and of those, nearly 13,000 had an illegal BAC level of .08 or above, NHTSA reports. So far this year, there have been 31 crashes in Charles County that have killed 38 people. So far, nine of those crashes have been found to be alcohol-related. The Sheriff's Office has issued 1,020 citations so far this year for driving while intoxicated.
"Driving impaired or riding with someone who is impaired is clearly not worth the risk," said Sheriff Davis. "The consequences can be deadly. Remember to celebrate responsibly this year and that 'Friends Don't Let Friends Drive Drunk."