Drive Sober: Celebrate Smart, Safely, and Securely

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Summer may be approaching its end, but celebrations continue across the state with revelers still heading out to family reunions, weddings, backyard barbecues, and parties on the many beautiful Texas rivers and lakes between now and the Labor Day weekend, Sept. 1-4.

Great food and good times will abound, as will alcoholic beverages. Unfortunately, numerous celebrations will end in severe injuries or tragedy – and with tears and grief – because many irresponsible people will decide to drink and drive. Their bad choices may have lifelong, irreversible effects on families and friends.

Impairment begins with the first drink. Gender, body weight, the number of drinks consumed and when you ate last affects the body’s ability to handle alcohol. Two or three beers in an hour can make some people legally intoxicated. Women, younger people, and smaller people generally become impaired with less alcohol.

In Texas, a person is legally intoxicated and will be arrested and charged with Driving While Intoxicated  with a .08 blood alcohol concentration. If an open alcohol container is found in the vehicle, either the driver or the passenger can be fined up to $500.

In 2016, according to the Texas Department of Transportation, between Aug. 1 and the Labor Day holiday weekend, 95 people were killed in 87 fatal motor vehicle crashes involving drivers or motorcycle operators with a BAC of .08 or higher. Of the total 87 fatal crashes, 52 crashes, or 60 percent, occurred on Fridays through Sundays, and during the Labor Day weekend, Friday through Monday. Of the total 95 fatalities, 59, or 62 percent, occurred during the same weekend and holiday periods.

Another distressing fact: in 2016, a total of 18 children under the age of 15 were killed on Texas highways as a result of alcohol-related crashes. Disregarding children’s safety by driving impaired with them in your vehicle may have severe consequences. You may be charged with child endangerment for driving while intoxicated if you’re carrying passengers younger than 15 years old. DWI with a child passenger is punishable by: (1) A fine of up to $10,000; (2) Up to two years in a state jail; and (3) loss of your driver license for 180 days.

Not only are you putting your life and the lives of others at risk, but a DWI arrest this Labor Day weekend may result in hard labor while serving time in jail, more walking or biking because of losing a driver’s license, and working harder to make up for the hard-earned money lost as a result of the choice to drink and drive. The average cost of the first DWI is about $17,000.

Law enforcement agencies in Bryan, College Station, Brazos County, and surrounding counties, along with the Texas Department of Public Safety continue to crack down on impaired drivers by aggressively targeting those who put lives in danger. These agencies, along with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, continue to participate in and enforce the “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” campaign. If you drive drunk you may be arrested.

“Don’t labor over doing the right things to keep families and friends safe,” says Mary Jo Prince, program coordinator with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension’s Brazos Valley Injury Prevention Coalition. “Especially think about protecting children,” she adds. “Make a plan before heading out to the next party or celebration. It’s not rocket science.” Take some simple steps. Prince says, “The first and easiest step is to decide to not drink and drive. Secondly, designate a sober driver – and that means someone who has had nothing to drink.” She also suggests relying on the many alternative driver options, including cabs, Uber, or party site shuttle busses. Last but not least, Prince suggests “simply pack a change of clothes and a sleeping bag and spend the night where you are, if possible. You’ll live to not regret it and so will everyone else.”

Other suggestions include taking and hiding the keys of those who are about to drive after drinking, and help them make other arrangements to get to where they are going safely. Also consider downloading NHTSA’s SaferRide mobile app that allows users to call a taxi or a predetermined friend, and identifies the user’s location so they can be picked up.

For more information, call BVIPC’s Mary Jo Prince at (979) 847-8865 or Cindy Kovar at (979) 862-1921.