It’s the holidays and while right now, you may be enjoying the sights, sounds, and smells of the season (fresh pine & holiday cookies, anyone?), there’s an important awareness month happening that is recognized nationally each December.
It’s National Drunk and Drugged Driving Prevention Month, also known as National 3D Prevention Month.
This annual observance is a sobering reminder to never drive impaired.
The facts are simple – getting behind the wheel of a car when you’re under the influence of alcohol, illegal drugs, and even some legal prescription and over-the-counter drugs (which may affect your ability to drive) can result in a serious car accident and life-threatening injuries to yourself and others.
According to the National Association of Drug Court Professionals, the time period between Thanksgiving Day and New Year’s Day is “one of the deadliest and most dangerous times on America’s roadways because of an increase in impaired driving.”
Read on to learn the recent statistics, what to do if you suspect an impaired driver, how to handle an accident with an impaired driver, and how you can take precautions to avoid driving under the influence yourself.
What Recent Impaired Driving Trends Show
Virginia is not unlike the rest of the U.S. when it comes to fatal car crash statistics. In fact, our state is in the top 20 states with the highest increases in fatal car crashes during holiday months, according to recent data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
- Fatal car accidents increase on average by 37% on holidays
- There’s an average of 2.81 fatal car crashes occurring on holidays compared to 2.05 on non-holidays
- Fatal crashes on holidays account for 6.6% of all fatal crashes annually in Virginia
Nationally, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control:
- 285 drunk-driving related fatalities occurred during the Christmas and New Year’s period in 2018
- In 2017, 45% of the drivers killed in fatal crashes who were tested for drugs had positive tests
- Drugs other than alcohol (legal and illegal) are involved in about 16% of motor vehicle crashes on average
While you might think there will be less drivers on the road this year given the pandemic, a decrease in air travel is making it more likely we’ll see even more motorists this year — and possibly more impaired drivers.
The good news is, driving under the influence of any substance is preventable and there are safety measures you can take to avoid being hurt in an impaired driving accident or causing one yourself.
What To Do If You Encounter an Impaired Driver on the Road
The most important precaution you can take to avoid a car accident in general – including those with impaired drivers – is to drive defensively.
While on the road, stay alert and stay far away from motorists who appear to be driving while under the influence. You might notice them by observing a few signs such as quick acceleration or deceleration, tailgating, weaving across the road, abrupt and erratic braking, swerving, and others.
If safe to do so, pull over and call 911 (or call hands-free) to report a suspected impaired driver, note their location, and let law enforcement step in to keep the roads safe.
For more info, Mothers Against Drunk Driving has a helpful Concerned Citizen Action Plan on what to do if you observe an impaired driver.
What To Do If You’re in An Accident With a Suspected Impaired Driver
If you’re in a car accident and you suspect that the other driver might be under the influence of alcohol or drugs, first and foremost, make sure you are safe and call 911 immediately if you are injured and you can.
When authorities arrive and you can do so safely, report that you suspect the other driver is under the influence of alcohol or drugs. They have the authority to conduct field sobriety tests and blood tests to determine if the driver was driving under the influence.
Even if you’re involved in a minor fender bender with someone whom you suspect is drunk or under the influence of drugs, it’s important to call authorities and file an accident report for insurance purposes and to use for potential legal help if needed.
Whether it’s an impaired driving accident or not, it’s also helpful to know the 7 seven key things you need to do after you’re in a car accident. You can learn them in our free comprehensive guide to auto accidents in Virginia, which helps you navigate how to handle an auto collision from the time it happens to working with your insurance company to getting legal help.
Ways You Can Avoid Impaired Driving Yourself
Along with staying defensive on the roads and looking out for potential impaired drivers this holiday season, it’s important for you to take steps to avoid impaired driving yourself and help prevent it in your social circles.
- Have a Designated Driver – Always plan ahead and designate a sober driver or arrange for an alternative ride home just in case you can’t get home safely. If you’re hosting a get-together, make non-alcoholic refreshments available for guests.
- Help Others Get Home Safely – If you observe someone about to get behind the wheel while under the influence, take their keys from them and help them find another way home safely.
- Talk About Safety with Your Loved Ones – Talk with loved ones about how important it is to drive responsibly and safely during the holidays and how to avoid driving impaired.
- Buzzed Driving is Still Impaired Driving – Remember that “buzzed driving,” even when your blood alcohol concentration level is under the legal limit, can still impair your judgment behind the wheel.
- Take Care When Driving While Taking Medicine – Some prescription medicines and over-the-counter medicines can affect your ability to operate a vehicle safely. It’s best to avoid getting behind the wheel when taking them and arrange a safer ride.
If You Need Legal Help After An Accident, Reach Out To Me
If you’re a victim of a car accident in Virginia with a suspected impaired driver during National 3D Prevention Month – or any time of year – I can help you understand your rights and seek compensation for physical and mental damages related to your injuries.
This includes helping ensure your vehicle is repaired, your medical expenses are paid, and you are compensated for lost wages, pain, mental anguish, and suffering. Reach out today by calling 703-813-6460 or by contacting me. I’m here to help you get better and get back to your life.