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By David R. Shorey

East County Program Manager, Institute for Public Strategies

December 5, 2019  (San Diego’s East County) -- Holiday time in the East County is marked with tree lightings, trips to the snowcapped peaks, and the sound of holiday music floating in the air. It is also the most popular time of year for driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), this time of year has the highest rate of driving under the influence incidents, injuries and deaths. In fact, preventable alcohol-related deaths account for almost one-third of all traffic fatalities, according to NHTSA.

That’s why each year, December is declared National Impaired Driving Prevention Month. Law enforcement officials in the East County participate by annually increasing patrols and DUI checkpoints in the region. We observe Impaired Driving Prevention Month to highlight steps we can take to improve safety on our streets and raise awareness of these preventable dangers.

Maximum Enforcement

The California Highway Patrol began its maximum enforcement period during the week of Thanksgiving and it will be ongoing through New Year’s weekend, according to Public Information Officer Travis Garrow of the CHP’s El Cajon office. CHP officers patrol the streets in the unincorporated areas of the county as well has the highways.

“We will be out there in full force,” Garrow said.

Drinking and driving is not the only danger on the road. People who drive while under the influence of marijuana in some cases are twice as likely to end up in a car crash, NHTSA says. Driving while under the influence of prescription drugs is another concern. So is distracted driving like eating, texting, shaving and putting on makeup.

Do Your Part

Families play an essential part in stopping impaired driving, for both adults and drivers under age 21. Contrary to what some may believe, it is not safer to let youth drink or use any other substances at home. The message to adults is simple, don’t break the law by giving alcohol or marijuana to kids.

Additionally, access to prescription medication should be restricted. Many youth may feel that a prescription is “safer” because it comes from a pharmacy. Use of someone else’s prescription medication can often be extremely harmful and sometimes deadly. A trip to the emergency room is not the holiday gift you want to give or receive.

Instead of turning to alcohol for holiday celebrations, many party hosts are developing new traditions including the creation of a mocktail that is shared with friends and family who are in town for the holidays. Hosts and guests try to out “wow” each other with their nonalcoholic liquid concoctions in addition to their culinary masterpieces.

Mocktail Recipe

One of my favorites is a simple mixture of three-fourths part nonalcoholic ginger beer, one-fourth part lemonade, and a splash of pomegranate juice. This sparkly beverage is sure to tickle your taste buds.

We have several solutions to eliminate impaired driving. As passengers, we can reduce our interactions with drivers and lessen distractions. As friends and family members, we can look out for loved ones who may be drinking and help them get home safely without getting behind the wheel. As citizens, we can call 9-1-1 to report any dangerous driving we observe.

The holidays are about being with family, both our chosen and blood relatives. Let’s heed the warnings of National Impaired Driving Prevention Month so we can be around for this year’s and next year’s holiday seasons.

On behalf of all of us at the Institute for Public Strategies, we wish you healthy, safe and happy holidays!

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