The winter holiday season can be a wonderful – though stressful – time of year. To help keep a balanced mindset, we at SAMHSA want to remind everyone to take time to focus on your mental, emotional and behavioral health and well-being during the holidays. We also ask you to be aware that traffic fatalities involving drivers under the influence of alcohol or drugs increase during the holidays. Due to the number of driving fatalities during the Christmas and New Year’s holidays,[i] President Barack Obama has declared December National Impaired Driving Prevention Month and set a national goal of reducing drugged driving by 10 percent by 2015.
Although impaired driving increases during the holiday season, drunk and drugged driving are problems that occur year-round. On average, 30 million Americans drive drunk and 10 million Americans drive drugged each year. According to SAMHSA’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health, in the past year, 13.2 percent of all people aged 16 or older drove under the influence of alcohol and 4.3 percent drove under the influence of illicit drugs. We should all be aware of the dangers of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs and encourage others to drive responsibly.
There are steps you can take to help ensure that you and your loved ones enjoy a safe and happy holiday, including focusing on the prevention of alcohol abuse and drunk and drugged driving. Talk openly about this issue with young people in your life and set a good example. We’ve seen time and again that parents and adults have a big influence on children’s decisions not to drink. For evidence-based approaches on preventing underage drinking, visit the Too Smart To Start and Stop Underage Drinking Portal of Federal Resources Web sites.
If you are hosting or attending holiday parties this year, there are some key things you can do to prevent dangerous “binge alcohol use” and impaired driving.[ii]
- Avoid making alcohol the main focus of social events. Enjoy holiday parties through music, dancing, games, food, and lively conversation.
- Be sure to offer plenty of nonalcoholic choices such as sparkling water, fancy juice, soft drinks, and bottled drinking water.
- Stop serving drinks at least 1 hour before the end of the event. Instead, serve coffee, non-alcoholic beverages, and desserts at that time.
- Avoid salty foods, which are known to encourage people to drink more. Serve high protein and carbohydrate foods, such as cheese and meats, which can help to slow the effects of alcohol.
- Recruit designated drivers ahead of time to make sure that everyone has a safe ride home. Be prepared to offer or use other transportation such as cabs or “safe ride” programs in your area; keep the phone numbers of local cab services on hand for yourself and guests.
- Finally, don’t be afraid to stop a friend or loved one from getting behind the wheel.
To learn more about what SAMHSA is doing to prevent alcohol abuse, visit http://www.samhsa.gov/prevention; visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Web site, Stop Impaired Driving, for information and resources to address drunk and drugged driving in your community.
We wish everyone a very happy and healthy holiday season!
[i] National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. (2007). Fatalities related to alcohol-impaired driving during the Christmas and New Year’s Day holiday periods. Traffic Safety Facts. From http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/810870.PDF (accessed December 13, 2011).
[ii] Party Planning Tips for an Alcohol-Safe and Drug-Free Holiday Season to Remember. http://store.samhsa.gov/shin/content//PHD833/PHD833.pdf.