Since 1981, December has been recognized as National Drunk and Drugged Driving Prevention Month. Before signing up to write this blog post, I didn’t know that, so I wanted to find out why! What is the connection between December and drunk/drugged driving? According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), December is a deadly month for drunk and drugged driving, with the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day claiming a higher-than-average amount of lives.
Did you know the average drunk driver has driven drunk over 80 times before their first arrest? This is one of the many noteworthy statistics I remember from my 50 weeks of court-ordered alcohol education classes. That’s right; I was a drunk driver.
I remember waking up the morning after on the floor in my best friend’s parent’s living room, hoping it was all a bad dream. But I knew that wasn’t the case when I spotted the ticket and other paperwork sticking out of my purse. Then I had to make the dreaded call to my mom to tell her what had happened because I knew I would face consequences that I wouldn’t be able to hide from my new (old) roommates (I had just graduated college and moved back in with my parents, yay!). I was filled with disappointment, fear, and anxiety because of what could have happened, what still might happen, and what my family and friends might think of me because of my actions.
In addition to the weekly alcohol classes, I had to pay court fees and fines, complete more than 100 hours of community service, attend a Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) victim impact panel, install an interlock device in my vehicle, and submit to daily urinalysis (UAs) because I was not allowed to drink alcohol. After all was said and done, I had paid upwards of $10,000 because of my irresponsible, not to mention inexcusable and dangerously inconsiderate, choice to drink and drive. Or in other words, as I learned throughout my alcohol classes, I could have chartered a helicopter to fly me home that night, costing me less and being much safer.
It might sound like I am complaining about my punishment, but I am not. At the time, it felt overwhelming, but I was also grateful to learn my lesson without hurting anyone else, including my two friends riding in my car and anyone I encountered on the road that night or myself, or damaging any property. I mentioned earlier in my blog post that the average drunk driver has driven more than 80 times before their first arrest, and while I don’t remember how many times I had driven under the influence at this point in my life, it was not the first time. And if I wouldn’t have been pulled over that night, it probably wouldn’t have been the last. This incident changed my life; drinking and driving is no longer an option.
So again, if I sound like I’m complaining, I’m not. Thankfully, I was lucky enough to learn a valuable (and expensive) lesson without any victims. When I got my DUI in 2011, Uber was quickly emerging as a viable option for a safe ride home in major cities, but unfortunately, it had yet to make its way to Highlands Ranch, Colorado. A recent study by the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) found that rideshares have decreased motor vehicle crash traumas by 38.9%.
So let my lesson be a lesson to you. Please don’t figure it out the hard way. Now that it is the holiday season, it is an excellent time to remind your friends, family, and loved ones that driving under the influence is never a good idea. Before you start drinking, have a plan. You can nominate a designated driver or utilize rideshare services like Uber or Lyft, or maybe you live in a metropolitan area, and you have access to public transportation or the classic, a taxi.
Happy Holidays and remember to celebrate responsibly!