’Tis the season for what the old holiday song calls a “cup of good cheer.” But if the cheer in that cup is alcohol, be careful about driving home.
That’s the point of the Tie One On for Safety campaign. It encourages drivers to display red ribbons on their vehicles between Thanksgiving and New Year’s as a reminder to designate a non-drinking driver before, or call a cab after, holiday gatherings that include alcohol.
With good reason: Drunk drivers crash. And drunk driving kills.
According to the Nebraska Office of Highway Safety, there were 1,779 alcohol-related crashes in Nebraska last year, and 81 of those crashes killed a total of 87 people. That means alcohol was involved in four of 10 fatalities on Nebraska roads during 2012. In Iowa, authorities reported 106 alcohol and drug-related highway fatalities.
The Nebraska safety office computes the costs of such crashes, including lost wages, medical expenses and vehicle damage. Alcohol-related crash deaths in 2012 cost an estimated $115 million, and alcohol-related injuries added $23.7 million more.
None of which compares to the emotional cost to loved ones, of course.
One of the groups sponsoring the Tie One On effort is Mothers Against Drunk Driving. MADD advocate Kim Milana, whose son, Josh, and his girlfriend, Morgan Hohnbaum, were killed by a drunken driver in 2007, knows the cost too well.
“Losing a loved one is so hard, and I don’t want anyone to feel the same way that our family and Morgan’s family and all of their friends have felt,” she told a press conference announcing this year’s campaign. “This holiday season, you’ll sit around the dinner table, you’re opening presents — we don’t have that any longer. ”
And yet, drunks keep driving.
In Nebraska, there were 10,605 drunken-driving arrests in 2012, and nearly 90 percent of those drivers were convicted. A national survey by MADD found that 73 percent of adults said they “have been at an event and seen someone try to drive home after drinking too much.”
Nebraska State Patrol officials say campaigns such as Tie One On for Safety, Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over, and Click It or Ticket remind Nebraskans to get involved in keeping roads safe. “It is a partnership, and people need to make a conscious choice,” Patrol Lt. Col. Thomas Schwarten said.
Choose to celebrate the holidays responsibly and live to celebrate again next year.