The statistics are as familiar as they are depressing. According to MADD, an estimated 11,773 people died in alcohol-impaired traffic crashes in 2008. And a staggering 3 of 10 Americans will be involved in an alcohol-related accident in their lives. But the statistics don't do justice to the pain and loss suffered by drunk driving victims and their families – the parents who have lost children, husbands and wives who have lost their spouses, kids who have lost their parents.
So what are some things you can do to prevent drinking and driving? MADD suggests:
When Drinking Alcohol
Choose a designated driver. Decide who's going to be doing the driving before you go out, and make sure that person doesn't drink any alcoholic beverages.
Call a taxi. Sometimes even the designated driver slips. If nobody in your group is sober, take alternate transportation. Cab, train, bus, horse and buggy – anything's better than getting in the car with a drunk driver.
Hide keys. Don't be afraid to take someone's car keys. If the person gets angry, it's probably proof you're doing the right thing.
When Throwing a Party
Offer non-alcoholic beverages. Water, juice, soda pop – give your guests plenty of alternatives. And never pressure guests to drink alcohol.
Serve plenty of food. A full stomach can slow the rate of alcohol absorption. Serve a great meal or have plenty of appetizers on hand.
Stop serving alcohol well before the party ends. Give your guests an extra hour or two without alcohol before they head out the door.
Arrange alternate transportation. Pay attention to your guests' alcohol intake and behavior. If someone has had a lot to drink or seems even the slightest bit tipsy, call a cab or set up a ride with a sober driver.
Detecting Drunk Drivers
Law enforcement officials say there are several signs associated with drunk driving:
- Making wide turns
- Weaving, swerving, drifting, or straddling the center line
- Almost striking an object or vehicle
- Driving on the wrong side of the road
- Driving at a very slow speed
- Stopping without cause
- Braking erratically
- Responding slowly to traffic signals
- Turning abruptly or illegally
- Driving after dark with headlights off
Keeping these things in mind can help you avoid a dangerous situation. If you spot what you think is an impaired driver, keep a safe distance and call 9-1-1. Do not attempt to stop the vehicle yourself.
Learn more about drinking and driving laws in your state.
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