Drunken driving spikes during holidays

The American Press

As the holiday season gets into full swing, the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission has a grim reminder of what can happen when party-goers take to the road after having too much to drink.

Most holiday vehicle fatalities in Louisiana — about 70 percent — involve a drunken driver, a “staggering statistic that emphasizes the scope of the impaired driving problem in our state,” the commission said.

“In the last five years, 139 people across Louisiana have died in vehicle crashes during the Christmas and New Year’s Eve holiday period,” LHSC Executive Director Lisa Freeman said in a news release to the America Press. “Of those fatalities, 99 were killed in a crash involving a drunk driver.”

Freeman said in 2017, 1,389 people were injured and 15 were killed across Louisiana in vehicle crashes during the Christmas and New Year’s Eve holiday, according to statistics from the Highway Safety Research Group at LSU.

About 12 percent of those injuries were from crashes that involved drunken drivers and nine of the 15 fatalities involved alcohol.

Freeman said December has been designated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration as National Impaired Driving Prevention Month to underscore the importance of combating all forms of impaired driving.

Although impaired driving statistics traditionally measure only alcohol-impaired drivers, the LHSC and NHTSA are now sounding the alarm for drug impaired driving, which is a growing problem in Louisiana, Freeman said.

“The Louisiana State Police Crime Lab is seeing a lot of cases involving drivers who are drug-impaired, and it’s often because of prescription drugs,” Freeman said. “A drug does not have to be illegal for it to have detrimental effects if it is abused. Law enforcement officers are trained to identify alcohol- and drug-impaired drivers, so when we say, ‘Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over,’ we’re not just talking about alcohol anymore.”

Freeman said if a driver is caught impaired by alcohol or drugs in Louisiana, law enforcement will have “zero tolerance.”

If you plan to drink while enjoying time with family and friends, plan ahead.

Drinking and driving can not only ruin the holidays but it can also ruin someone’s life. Finding an alternative to drinking and driving could include having a designated driver, using a cab or ride-share service or even simply spending the night. To discover more options you can visit SoberRides.org.””

The black Ford Fusion was hit by a drunk driver going over 80 miles per hour in a 35 miles per hour zone, killing the four family members instantly. 

Special to the American Press