WASHINGTON – Along with eggnog and holiday parties comes an increase in drinking and driving accidents every year.
November and December had the two highest number of drinking-related highway fatalities in 1997 in Maryland, with 24 people killed in November and 23 in December.
“The percentage goes up in December because there are holiday parties,” said Paul Pinciaro, the alcohol program coordinator for the Maryland State Highway Administration.
Brenda Barnes, the state executive director of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, said that some of the responsibility for drunken driving needs to placed on the hosts of the parties.
“The hosts need to think about how their friends will get home,” said Barnes. “If you do not have a designated driver, do not be afraid to just spend the night.”
The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States advises hosts to supply at least one or two non-alcoholic drinks at their parties for those who are driving or would rather abstain.
Maryland State Police spokesman Pete Piringer said that people need to designate a sober driver before going out drinking over the holidays.
Those who can’t agree on a designated driver can call for help getting home during the holidays: 1-800-200-TAXI offers free sober rides and 1-800-AAA-HELP offers people a free ride and tow for their car.
“The holiday parties give people more opportunity to drink and drive,” said Pinciaro. He said people can help themselves by eating before they drink alcohol and by drinking water while they imbibe.
For Marylanders who are thinking they can drink and drive and get away with it, Maryland State Police Lt. Bill Tower said they should think again.
“We will be organizing saturated patrols and sobriety checkpoints in every county, especially at target times like weekend nights,” said Tower.