Authorities warn about dangers of impaired driving, urge people to ring in the new year safely

Local News

ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — Seeing as 2020 had its challenges, many of us want to ring in the New Year by letting loose. However, law enforcement and transportation agencies want to make sure you have a safe end to 2020.

Transportation officials say 28 people die in a drunk driving crash every day in the United States. That’s approximately one person every 51 minutes.

Although drunk driving has seen a decline in Virginia over the past couple of decades, holiday festivities tend to see an increase in unwanted situations, with statistics showing that New Year’s Eve comes in second place after Fat Tuesday for the holiday with the highest alcohol consumption.

As such, safe driving groups and law enforcement are urging people to drink responsibly and drive sober.

According to data from the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), 253 people died in alcohol-impaired driving crashes on Virginia’s roadways through Dec. 8, which is up from the 249 alcohol-related traffic fatalities recorded during the same period in 2019.

During last year’s Thanksgiving to New Year’s holiday period, nearly one-third, or 32 percent, of all traffic deaths in Virginia involved drunk drivers.

According to law enforcement, “driving buzzed” is just as bad as drinking drunk.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) provided the following data of different blood alcohol concentrations (BAC) — or grams of alcohol per deciliter of blood — and the predictable effects on driving:

  • .02 BAC: A decline in visual functions, such as rapid tracking of a moving target, and the driver’s ability to divide their attention to multitask.
  • .05 BAC: Difficulty steering, as well as a reduction in the driver’s ability to concentrate, track moving targets, and respond to emergency situations.
  • .08 BAC: Poor concentration; short-term memory loss; impaired perception; and a reduction in the driver’s information processing capability, such as signal detection or visual search.
  • .10 BAC: A reduction in the driver’s ability to maintain lane position and brake appropriately.
  • .15 BAC: Substantial impairment in the driver’s control of the vehicle, attention to driving, and in necessary visual and auditory information processing.

The NHTSA says driving at a BAC of .08 or higher — which exponentially increases the risk of a crash — is illegal in all 50 states, as well as Washington D.C.

Law enforcement agencies around Virginia and around America are urging people to make a plan on how to get home safely if you plan on participating in New Year’s Eve festivities. They suggest designating a sober driver, calling a cab, or using rideshare.

In addition, if you see an impaired driver, you are encouraged to call police. By doing so, you may end up saving a life.

Meanwhile, as part of a partnership with the NHTSA’s “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” national enforcement mobilization period — which is scheduled from Dec. 18 to Jan. 1, 2021 — state and local authorities will reportedly conduct more than 700 saturation patrols and almost 100 sobriety checkpoints throughout the Commonwealth.

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