The holiday season is a time to spend quality time with loved ones. It’s also a time when more people celebrate and drinking and driving increases. December is National Drunk and Drugged Driving Prevention Month. With holiday celebrations fast approaching, I would like to take a minute to remind everyone of the dangers of drunk and impaired driving.
In Suffolk County, 5,035 drivers were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol in 2009 and 47 people were killed in alcohol impaired crashes – accounting for nearly one-third of all traffic related deaths in Suffolk County.i Drugs other than alcohol, such as marijuana and cocaine, are involved in about 18 percent of motor-vehicle driver deaths and are often used in combination with alcohol. ii These statistics, while startling, are only a small glimpse into the dangers of driving while impaired.
In 2009, the Assembly passed a law that I supported to help reduce accidents and fatalities related to alcohol and drug impairment. Leandra’s Law is in honor of Leandra Rosado, an 11-year-old girl who was killed while riding in a vehicle driven by her friend’s intoxicated mother (Ch. 496 of 2009). The law makes it an automatic felony on the first offense to drive drunk with a person age 15 or younger. This law also requires any person sentenced for driving while intoxicated to have an ignition interlock device installed on any vehicle they own or operate and requires the driver to have an “ignition interlock” restriction added to their driver’s license. In addition, the law establishes the penalty for non-compliance with interlock requirements and tampering with such devices as a class A misdemeanor.
Underage drinking around the holidays, and throughout the year, remains a serious concern. Parents can find information about how to talk to their children about alcohol and underage drinking at http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/children.pdf
The Holidays are a time we all look forward to. By all means, we should celebrate them with our families and enjoy our time together. Let’s just be smart about it. Driving while impaired puts your life in jeopardy – and the lives of everyone else on the road. If you are hosting a holiday party, remind your guests to designate a sober driver and follow through with them at the end of the night to make sure they are leaving with one. Don’t hesitate to take away the keys of a guest who has been drinking. Better yet, have a bowl for guests to place their keys in at the beginning of the party, before any drinking begins. If you are attending a party yourself, designate a sober driver and have a back-up plan in case your safe ride falls through – remember, taxis are always an option.
Celebrate safely this holiday season, and remember you can always contact me concerning this or any other important community issue at email@example.com or call my district office at 435-3214.