Holiday Spirits

Yesterday, AAA issued its annual end-of-year travel forecast, predicting a record-setting year in the number of motorists this holiday season. While in some ways this is good news – a sign of economic recovery, perhaps, and more people having the opportunity to visit loved ones – an impaired driver can turn the holidays into a nightmare for any of the 85.8 million people who are expected to travel by road this year. And unfortunately, our latest survey data indicate that in 2013, there have been as many impaired drivers out there as ever.

It’s not that people don’t “get it.” Our latest findings from the annual Traffic Safety Culture Index survey show that 96 percent of drivers think it’s somewhat or completely unacceptable for somebody to get behind the wheel when they think they may have had too much to drink. A high number (91%) perceive social disapproval of drunk driving from others, and 93 percent say drivers who have been drinking pose a somewhat or very serious threat to their personal safety. There is even relatively strong support for countermeasures to impaired driving, such as ignition interlocks.

Yet among people who report consuming alcohol (and who are licensed drivers), roughly one-in-five admit to driving when they thought their BAC level was close to or over the legal limit, at least once in the past year. And the problem isn’t just alcohol: there is much less public concern about drugged driving (illicit or prescription), and among people who report using marijuana, more than a third (36%) said they’ve driven within an hour of doing so in the past year. This is an attitude that we’ve long described with the phrase, “Do as I say, not as I do.”

The spirit of the season may bring joy for the holidays, but the spirits – when combined with driving – can be deadly. Indeed, far too many people already mark the holidays with sadness at the loss of a loved one to an impaired driving crash. So for the sake of yourself, your family and friends, and the tens of millions of people with whom you’ll share the road this season, don’t wait until New Years to make a resolution to avoid driving impaired. By then it could be too late.

For more information about our latest impaired driving survey data, and for tips on staying safe on the road this holiday season, please check out our new fact sheet. And please, have a safe and happy holiday.