Make responsible choices throughout the year

  • Published
  • By Earl Rivers
  • 1st Special Operations Medical Operations Squadron ADAPT Program
Throughout our nation in December, many communities will observe National Impaired Driving Prevention Month. One of the strategic goals of this nation-wide initiative is to encourage all Americans to make responsible decisions and take appropriate actions to prevent drunk, drugged and distracted driving.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 3,179 people were killed in distracted-driving crashes in 2014, and an estimated 431,000 people were injured in motor vehicle crashes that involved a distracted driver in 2014. Also, drivers in their 20s account for 27 percent of the distracted drivers in fatal crashes.

Distracted driving is any activity that could divert a person's attention away from the primary task of driving. And, all distractions endanger driver, passenger, and bystander safety. These types of distractions include:

• Texting.
• Using a cell phone or smartphone.
• Eating and drinking.
• Talking to passengers.
• Grooming.
• Reading, including maps.
• Using a navigation system.
• Watching a video.
• Adjusting a radio, CD player, or MP3 player.

Text messaging is by far the most alarming distraction because it requires visual, manual, and cognitive attention from the driver.

Additionally, during the holiday season, Americans celebrate with friends, family and neighbors. For many people, this ‘holiday cheer’ involves consuming alcohol at parties and other social events. Therefore, if you choose to consume alcohol, it’s vital that you drink responsibly.

To further promote responsible alcohol use, the National Institutes of Health recommends low-risk drinking. Low-risk drinking is men consuming no more than 4 drinks on any single day and no more than 14 drinks per week; and women consuming no more than three drinks on any single day and no more than seven drinks per week.

A standard drink contains about one-half an ounce of pure alcohol. Generally, this amount of pure alcohol is found in 12 ounces of regular beer, 8 ounces of malt liquor, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor.

Alcohol and drugs, both illicit and prescribed, can impair judgment, reaction time, motor skills, and memory; thus, degrading an individual’s ability to drive safely. In the U.S. during 2015, a staggering 10,265 people lost their lives in traffic crashes involving a drunk driver.

Following these easy steps, a driver can enjoy a safe and festive holiday season without jeopardizing their life and the lives of others who may be on the road:

• Plan a safe way home before the party begins.
• Before drinking, designate a sober driver and give that person your keys.
• If impaired, use a taxi, call a sober friend or family member, or use public transportation to get home safely.
• If you happen to see an impaired driver on the road, contact local law enforcement.
• Remember, if you know someone who is about to drive while impaired, or ride with an impaired driver, take their keys and help them make other arrangements.

The holidays should be a time for celebrations with friends and family, not tragedy. Help make roadways safe by never driving after drinking and never engaging in distracted-driving.

For more information, contact the Hurlburt Field Air Force Drug and Alcohol Abuse Program at (850) 881-4237. The ADAPT Program provides a wide range of prevention, evaluation and treatment services to active duty members. The ADAPT Program is located directly behind the Hurlburt Youth Center at 130 LeTourneau Circle, building 90311. Family members of active duty personnel should contact TriCare-partner Value Options at (800) 700-8646 for information and assistance in obtaining substance use evaluation and treatment services.