Tennessee Remembers Victims of Impaired Driving

Thursday, December 07, 2006 | 06:00pm

Nashville, Tenn. – Tennessee Department of Transportation Governor’s Highway Safety Office (TDOT/GHSO) joined state and local law enforcement and safety advocates today to remember the 397 people killed in alcohol or drug-related crashes in 2005. The event was held in conjunction with the Tennessee Sheriffs’ Association Meeting at the Millennium Maxwell House Hotel.

A Christmas tree adorned with 397 angels was displayed at today’s event to serve as a visual reminder of the severe result of driving impaired.

“Each angel on the tree represents not only the 397 people killed in impaired driving accidents last year, but also the families and friends who will spend this holiday season without them,” said Governor Phil Bredesen. “As people celebrate the holiday, it is critical that everyone remember to designate a sober driver before the party begins. Impaired driving is no accident – nor is it a victimless crime.”

Since 1981, every U. S. President has demonstrated a commitment to preventing impaired driving by proclaiming December as National Drunk and Drugged Driving (3D) Prevention Month.

The holiday season between Thanksgiving and New Year’s is one of the deadliest and most dangerous times of the year due to an increase in impaired driving. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), during the month of December 2005 1,201 people were killed nationwide in highway crashes involving a driver or motorcycle operator with a blood alcohol content (BAC) level of .01 or higher. In these crashes, 1,033 involved a driver with an illegal BAC level of .08 or above.

“Too many people still don’t understand that alcohol, drugs and driving don’t mix,” said TDOT Commissioner Gerald Nicely. “If you drink this holiday have a sober driver take you home, even if you have just a couple drinks. Too many lives are being lost and it’s up to all of us to stop it.”

There are some simple steps everyone can take for a safer holiday season:

  • Plan ahead — Whenever you plan on consuming alcohol, designate your sober driver before going out and give that person your keys;
  • If you are impaired, call a taxi, use mass transit or call a sober friend or family member to get you home safely;
  • Promptly report drunk drivers you see on the roadways to law enforcement;
  • Wearing your seat belt or using protective gear on your motorcycle is your best defense against an impaired driver;
  • And remember, Friends Don’t Let Friends Drive Drunk. If you know someone who is about to drive or ride while impaired, take their keys and help them make other arrangements to get to where they are going safely.

“Driving any vehicle – including a motorcycle – while impaired is simply wrong and not worth the risk,” GHSO Director Kendell Poole said. “Not only do you risk killing yourself or someone else, but the trauma and financial costs of a crash or an arrest for drunk driving are significant.

In 2005, nearly 13,000 people died in highway crashes involving a driver or a motorcycle operator with a BAC of .08 or higher, according to NHTSA.

“This holiday season, don’t end the year in an arrest – or even worse, death,” warned Tennessee Highway Patrol Colonel Mike Walker. “Troopers will be out in force conducting sobriety checkpoints and saturation patrols during December in an effort to keep impaired drivers off the road. Whether you’ve had way too many or just one too many, it’s not worth the risk to get behind the wheel. We want our neighbors, friends and visitors home for the holidays rather than in a hospital, or worse!”

Everyone plays a part in preventing alcohol and drug-related highway fatalities this holiday season. Remember “Booze It and Lose It” this holiday.

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