Having a drink tonight to celebrate the new year? Don’t plan on driving

(Photo: AAA Mid-Atlantic/Facebook)

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The new year is upon us and as we prepare for festivities with friends and family, AAA Mid-Atlantic and The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) wants to remind all drivers that it’s dangerous to drive after drinking.

AAA recommends choosing your role before drinking begins: Will you drink or will you drive? A designated driver isn’t a driver that has had the least amount to drink, AAA says.

“Too often, drivers think they know their own limits. They think that if they’re just a little ‘buzzed,’ then they’re still good to drive,” said Tammy Arnette, Senior Public Affairs Specialist for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “Time and again, drivers who may have only had a couple of drinks put themselves and others at serious risk.

“If you plan to drink, plan to have a safe and sober ride home.”

Everyone is different and for some, it doesn’t take much to reach a dangerous level.

AAA and NHTSA have stated an anti-drunk-driving campaign, Buzzed Driving Is Drunk Driving, in hopes of informing people about the dangers of driving after drinking — even after drinking just a “little.”

“It’s not the person that’s had the least amount to drink, it’s the person that’s had nothing to drink,” said Arnette.

Drunk driving is a killer on our nation’s roads. In 2013, 10,076 people were killed in drunk driving crashes nationwide.

This time of year is especially dangerous due to holiday celebrations and frequent parties. In December 2013 alone, there were 733 people killed in crashes involving at least one drunk driver or motorcycle operator. In 2013, a third (31 percent) of all crash fatalities in America involved drunk driving.

“Unfortunately this time of year we see fatalities go up, In fact, New Years last year on Virginia roadways 8 people lost their lives,” said Arnette.

So, AAA and NHTSA are urging you the plan ahead: designate a sober driver. If you’re looking for other options for a ride, Allen and Allen and Spoken4 are both offering free sober rides home. There’s also Uber and AAA (though this offer is only available in the Hampton Roads area.)

If you plan on drinking at all, don’t plan on driving. Also, don’t assume that you’ll know whether you can safely drive or not at the end of the night.

AAA Mid-Atlantic and NHTSA provide the following tips to keep you and all area drivers safe this holiday season:

  • Even one drink can impair your judgment and reaction time and increase the risk of getting arrested for driving drunk or having a crash. Do not drink and drive, even if you have had only one drink.
  • If you will be drinking, do not plan on driving.  Plan ahead; designate a sober driver before the party begins.
  • When you know you’ll be drinking, leave your keys at home or give them to someone else.
  • If you have been drinking, do not drive—even a short distance. Call a taxi, phone a sober friend or family member, or use public transportation. Try NHTSA’s SaferRide mobile app, which allows users to call a taxi or a friend by identifying their location so they can be picked up.
  • Walking while impaired can be just as dangerous as drunk driving. Designate a sober friend to walk you home.
  • If you see a drunk driver on the road, contact local law enforcement when it is safe to do so.
  • If you see someone you think is about to drive while impaired, take their keys and help them get home safely.

Remember, it is never okay to drive after drinking. For more information from AAA, click here.

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