Drinking & Driving Can Lead to Holiday Tragedies Warns 21st Century

November 25, 2005

This holiday season is expected to be among the busiest on California’s roads.

As Californians rush to check off last-minute shopping lists and attend holiday parties, 21st Century Insurance urges motorists to remember the dangers of driving under the influence and reconsider the myths about drinking and driving.

Last year was a tragic year on California’s roads. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported 1,643 alcohol-related fatalities in 2004 in California alone, setting a five-year high for drunk-driving deaths and increasing the number of deaths from 2003 by nearly one percent.

The holiday calendar this year presents further cause for concern. Christmas Eve, Christmas, and New Year’s–all busy travel days–fall on weekends, which are typically worse for DUI accidents, injuries and deaths, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

“The holidays are a time for parties and family gatherings, but all drivers should take extra care this season. Risking the lives of your friends, family and fellow motorists by driving drunk is no way to celebrate,” said Mike Brown, commissioner, California Highway Patrol.

“One way to reduce fatal traffic accidents is to not let common myths convince anyone that it’s OK to get behind the wheel of a car after having a few drinks at a holiday party,” said Joyce Prager, assistant vice president, Community Relations for 21st Century Insurance.

Common Alcohol Consumption Myths — and Facts that Could Save Lives:

Myth: As long as party-goers stick to beer and wine, instead of hard liquor, the intoxicating effects are minimized.

FACT: One 12 oz. can of beer, 5 oz. glass of wine or 12 oz. wine cooler contains the same amount of alcohol as one 1/2 oz. of hard liquor.

Myth: Someone who has had too much to drink will show visible signs of intoxication.

FACT: Physical appearance can be misleading. Just one drink can impair one’s ability to drive safely, because alcohol consumption affects judgment and motor skills first.

Myth: Drinking coffee sobers up someone who has had too much to drink.

FACT: Time is the only solution to intoxication. It takes approximately one hour to oxidize each drink consumed.

In addition to knowing the facts about drunk driving, all party hosts have a responsibility to prevent friends and loved ones from becoming the next alcohol-related traffic accident statistic. Before the get-together, designate a driver or plan to use public transportation, and never allow guests to leave your party in the driver’s seat if they have been drinking.

Motorists should also watch out for drunk drivers on the roads this holiday season. To spot a drunk driver, look for these warning signs: 1) driving well below the speed limit; 2) driving outside marked lanes, weaving and zigzagging across the roadway; 3) driving with headlights off at night; and/or 4) tailgating and erratic braking.

21st has also partnered with the California Highway Patrol to post billboards around the state encouraging drivers to be safe this holiday season. Ads in both English and Spanish feature lighthearted messages discussing a serious topic, safe and sober holiday driving. The ads include:

* “Drive slowly. Reindeer Crossing.” This ad features a picture of a young child dressed in a reindeer outfit to remind drivers to think about the safety of children while on the road this holiday.
* “What two things don’t go together?” An ad asking viewers to compare a car to a row of common holiday images–including a holiday drink–to deliver the message, “Don’t drink and drive.”

“We all have a responsibility to keep our roads as safe as they can be this holiday season,” added Prager. “Let’s work together to help keep this holiday season safe, memorable and tragedy-free.”

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