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Guest Column: AAA: Drive safely all year

By Pat Moody

While the holiday season is coming to an end, AAA encourages all drivers, passengers and hosts to use designated drivers or plan ahead for a sober ride throughout the coming year.

It only takes one or two drinks to slow physical and mental skills that affect vision, steering, braking judgment and reaction time. A recent AAA report found that 10 percent of motorists admit to having driven when they thought their blood alcohol content was above the legal limit. But current laws, public awareness, enforcement and education efforts by public service-oriented organizations, including AAA, have contributed to the decline in the number of alcohol-related fatalities during the past 13 years.

Nationally law enforcement officials arrest large numbers of DUI offenders every year in the United States. In 2012, an estimated 1.28 million drivers were arrested for the offense, enough to fill Fenway Park thirty-four times.

Number of DUI arrests in 2014:

Vermont – 2,647

Maine – 7,270

New Hampshire – 4,571

In the United States, an average of one alcohol-impaired driving fatality occurred every 52 minutes in 2013. AAA advises that motorists can keep themselves and others safe and avoid DUI arrests by keeping these safety tips in mind:

Always designate a non-drinking driver for yourself before any celebration or evening out begins.

If necessary, take the initiative to designate non-drinking drivers for others who may not have one at social events.

Never serve alcohol to those under age 21; it’s illegal and dangerous.

Never ride as a passenger in a car driven by someone who has consumed alcohol—even one drink.

Call a friend or family member for a ride home if you’ve been drinking.

Keep a cab/sober ride telephone number in your cellphone or wallet so you can call for a ride home.

Utilize a rideshare program such as Uber, but remember these can charge premium rates at busy hours.

If you’re hosting a party, offer non-alcoholic drink alternatives and provide overnight accommodations to guests who’ve been drinking.

Offer and consume different foods to help absorb some of the alcohol; also offer water to stay hydrated.

Take the car keys away from friends and relatives who have had too much to drink.

If you encounter an impaired driver on the road, keep a safe distance and ask a passenger to call 911 (or pull over to a safe location to make the call yourself).

Remember that prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, illegal drugs and even just late-night drowsiness can also impair your ability to drive safely and can increase the effects of alcohol.

Visit PreventDUI.AAA.com for impaired driving facts, transportation alternatives and expert advice. AAA also encourages visitors to Take the Pledge to drive drug-and alcohol-free.

Pat Moody is the manager of public affairs for AAA Northern New England.