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The holidays are just around the corner, and you know what that means: seasonal decorations, holiday music blaring in every store, and fun times with friends and family ahead. Unfortunately, there are some other aspects of the holiday season that aren’t quite so positive. Excess drinking during the holidays contributes to the startling statistics on holiday driving accidents. Let’s take a look at some of the sobering stats, the triggers for irresponsible driving on holidays, and how to stay safe this year.

The Facts on Drunk Driving During the Holidays

According to the most recent statistics from the NHTSA, drunk driving kills over 10,000 people every year in the United States. Tragically, the holidays— which should be a time of joy and celebration—are a particularly dangerous time on the nation’s roads.

The U.S. Department of Transportation highlights the dangers of “Thanksgiving Eve,” which is a hugely popular night for bars in the United States. The Thanksgiving week—stretching from the Wednesday beforehand to the following Monday—is the deadliest holiday of the year, accounting for 800 drunk-driving deaths between 2012 and 2016.

Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, approximately a month apart, MADD reports 1,443 people were killed due to drunk driving in 2017.

Although there are only a few brief days in between Christmas and New Years, this is a dangerous time to be on the road. Over 300 people have died in between these two holidays over the last five years.

According to Alcohol.org, New Years’ Eve is one of the “booziest holidays of the year,” with 47% of men and 40% of women saying binge-drinking is a usual part of the holiday. This contributes to its status as one of the deadliest driving days of the year.

Why Do the Holidays Present Such a Risk?

  • More parties. Let’s face it: there’s just more opportunity for drinking around the holidays. With the frequency of holiday parties and the constant flow of alcohol at each location, it may be difficult to avoid the presence of alcohol. This can create a tough situation for those prone to alcohol use disorders.
  • Increased stress. Family. Presents. Travel. Stressors abound on holidays, with the pressures of making the holiday perfect for your friends and family occasionally pushing you into dangerous territory. It’s key to avoid using alcohol as a coping mechanism for anxiety.
  • Vacation Mode. When you’re celebrating the holidays, you’re also probably off work for a few days. It may be tempting to settle into “vacation mode,” where regular drinking just becomes a part of your everyday life.
  • Availability. So, you’re back home with family. There may not be much to do, and alcohol abounds during the holidays. In fact, The Distilled Spirits Council reports a whopping 25% of their sales occur between Thanksgiving and the New Year. If alcohol is readily available at all times, then this can create the perfect storm of alcohol use and cabin fever.
  • Travel & Driving. There are simply more people on the road during the holiday season—shopping, going to events, traveling to spend time with friends and family. In fact, the average American travels 275 miles for the holidays. When you mingle congested highways with the impaired driving caused by drinking, there’s bound to be a disaster.

How to Stay Safe this Holiday Season

The statistics don’t lie: the holidays are an extra dangerous time in terms of drunk driving. But it doesn’t mean you have to succumb to the trends. Stay safe this holiday season with our tips:

Tip #1: Plan Ahead

Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Well, it’s exactly that simplicity that makes this tip so valuable. Before you head out for a holiday party, simply figure out how you’ll be getting back home afterwards. Can you use a ride-sharing app? Can you agree on a designated driver beforehand? It also helps to plan the course of your evening. For example, you can tell yourself ahead of time you’ll be limiting yourself to two drinks—and that you’ll make sure to drink plenty of water and eat food in between. Sometimes the simple act of having a plan can help you avoid spiraling out of control or making a dangerous decision.

Tip #2: Cope with Stress

We know the holidays can be stressful. It can be a tough time of year, especially if you’ve struggled with an alcohol use disorder in the past. If you think there might be a danger of relapsing during the holidays, try to proactively deal with the stress of the holidays. Sometimes simple things like physical activity can help blow off some steam. Whatever you do to stave off stress —writing, venting, working out— make sure you’re ready to use those coping mechanisms during the holidays.

Tip #3: Involve Friends & Family

Your loved ones want to help. If the holidays are a particularly challenging time for you, don’t be afraid to connect with your friends and family. Having a good friend you trust can be incredibly helpful when going to holiday parties. Also, close family can help you cope with your stress and anxiety. If you’re afraid you’ll do something you’ll regret, don’t be afraid to involve your support system and ask for help.

At Draeger, our goal is to provide education and resources to help people stay safe on the roads. For more tips on drinking, driving, and how to avoid holiday driving accidents, visit our blog. If you have any questions about how Draeger’s ignition interlock devices help reduce the risk of drunk driving, please contact us today.

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