Labeled as the busiest travel season of the year, the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve have also become the most dangerous.
Although winter holidays are synonymous with wishes of cheer and joy, in 2003 the Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that 1,579 people died in alcohol-related accidents between November and January.
Many attribute their holiday indulgences and extra glasses of spiked eggnog as a means to soothe their “winter blues.” Nearly ten million Americans suffer from the Seasonal Affective Disorder, caused by the transition from Fall to Winter.
Recognized in the American Psychiatric Association’s diagnostic manual, SAD is listed as a depressive disorder. SAD patients claim the shift into the holidays causes them to sleep more, gain weight, lose energy and fall into a deep depression.
Although SAD can be treated through hospitalization and therapy, the financial strain, family stresses and extra activities can and often lead to increased drug and alcohol use.
The National Center for Injury Prevention and Control claims that in 2004, nearly 1.4 million drivers were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotic drugs.
Escalating DUI’s during the holidays have led many organizations to hold holiday campaigns to raise awareness about drinking and driving.
In 1986 MADD created one such campaign, originally called “Project Red Ribbon.” Now known as “Tie One On For Safety” campaign, the public awareness program has mushroomed to distributing nearly six million ribbons a year.
To boost public involvement in the battle against drunk and drugged driving participants in “Tie One On For Safety” place a silver MADD ribbon on their cars. This ribbon symbolizes the participants’ pledge to drive safely, buckle safety belts, and stay sober for the holiday season.
The government has also tried to curtail drunk or drugged driving by sponsoring legislation against repeat offenders, increasing police enforcement efforts and providing a Presidential proclamation against driving under the influence during the winter holidays.
In an article in the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, Jeffrey W. Greene writes that sobriety checkpoints are used to restrict traffic flow in areas typically known for a high frequency of impaired drivers during the holiday season.
In a review of 23 sobriety checkpoints from around the world, the Center for Disease Control reports that these checkpoints reduce alcohol related crashes by 20 percent.
In addition to checkpoints, police also participate in saturation patrols during which they blanket the city or town with police officers looking for signs of impaired drivers.
The 3D Prevention Month began December 1. Since Ronald Reagan every US president has proclaimed December as the National Drunk and Drugged Driving (3D) Prevention Month.
Promoting sobriety, 3D Prevention Month also encourages the use of designated drivers and alternatives to partying too hard. While programs and education are readily available, the best solution for the holiday season is prevention.
With campaigns like, “Friends Don’t Let Friends Drive Drunk” and “You Drink You Drive You Lose,” the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration stated that for the month of December Americans ought be more cautious of drinking and driving during the holidays.