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Give the gift of holiday safety: Drive sober or get pulled over

The holiday season is underway and with gathering restrictions eased this year, experts are projecting increased traffic on the  roads this month compared to last year.

This holiday season, the West Virginia Governor’s Highway Safety Program  is partnering with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration  and local law enforcement agencies across the state to support law enforcement’s high visibility enforcement efforts and to share the message about the dangers of drunk driving.

The GHSP, NHTSA and local law enforcement want all drivers to remember this lifesaving message: Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over. West Virginians will see officers working together  through Jan. 1, to take drunk drivers off the roads. These expanded efforts to protect against impaired driving will be conducted in a fair and equitable way.

According to NHTSA, during the 2019 Christmas (6 p.m. Dec. 24 to 5:59 a.m.  Dec. 26) and New Year’s Day (6 p.m.  Dec. 28, 2018, to 5:59 a.m.  Jan. 2, 2019) holiday periods, there were more drunk-driving-related fatalities (210) than during any other holiday period that year.

Although it’s illegal to drive when impaired by alcohol, in 2019, one person was killed every 52 minutes in a drunk-driving crash on the nation’s roads.

In 2019, there were a total of 260 roadway fatalities in West Virginia. Of those, 56 involved an alcohol-impaired driver.

These fatalities are preventable, and drivers must remember that driving impaired by any substance — alcohol or other drugs — is deadly, illegal and selfish behavior. These tragic, preventable deaths are why the GHSP is reminding drivers that drunk driving is not only illegal, it is a matter of life and death.

“We know people are looking forward to getting together with family and friends after many did not get to last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Bob Tipton, GHSP director.

“Driving impaired is a choice, and it’s a bad choice that could have deadly consequences,” Tipton said. “If you’ve used an impairing substance such as alcohol, illegal drugs, or certain prescription medications, make the right choice and find a sober ride home.”

Understand the risks

In West Virginia, it is illegal to drive with a BAC of .08 or higher. Drivers need to ask themselves if the risks are worth the gamble. Not only do drunk drivers put other lives as well as their own at risk, the costs can be financial, too. If you’re caught drinking and driving, you could face jail time, lose your driver’s license and your vehicle, and pay up to $10,000 in attorney’s fees, fines, higher insurance rates and lost wages.

If you’re the designated driver, make sure you keep that promise of safety to yourself and your passengers. Stay hydrated with water and other non-alcoholic beverages. Support other designated drivers, too. It can be a long night, but people are counting on you, not to mention the other drivers, passengers and pedestrians on the streets. Take the role of designated driver seriously.

The GHSP is reminding West Virginians of the many resources available to get them home safely. It is essential to plan a sober ride home before you ever leave for the party.

Celebrate with a plan

  • The GHSP recommends these safe alternatives to drinking and driving:
  • Remember that it is never OK to drink and drive. Even if you’ve had only one alcoholic beverage, designate a sober driver or plan to use public transportation or a ride service such as Uber or Lyft to get home safely.
  • If available, use your community’s sober ride program, such as IntoxiTaxi or similar programs.
  • If you were not planning to drink but end up having one, call a trusted sober friend or family member and ask them to drive you home.
  • If you see a drunk driver on the road, contact local law enforcement or dial *77 for the West Virginia State Police.
  • Do you have a friend who is about to drink and drive? Take their keys away and make arrangements to get your friend home safely.

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