Wednesday, December 11, 2013
As we get ready to welcome a new year, it's important to learn from the past.
One important lesson is that drinking and driving is a deadly combination and what can start out as an evening of celebration can end up being an occasion to mourn.
A recent poll conducted by Liberty Mutual Insurance tells us that there is a new generation of drivers who need to hear what kind of risks they should avoid.
According to the poll, one in 10 teen drivers say they have driven drunk on New Year's Eve, which would be troubling even if no teen could have had many New Year's opportunities to break the law.
It is the worst holiday of the year for teen drunken driving, the survey says. The Fourth of July comes in second.
Other sources tell us more about drunken driving and the deaths that it causes.
Most fatalities occur at night. Almost all involve drivers younger than 44. Two-thirds involve drivers between the ages of 21 and 34.
Friends, families and hosts should keep these ages in mind tonight. While teen drunken driving is a well-known risk, drivers old enough to drink legally but not always experienced enough to know when to stop deserve special attention.
Hosts should offer non-alcoholic alternatives to their guests, and friends should not be afraid to call a taxi for people who have had too much to drink.
Passengers are also at risk, and they have a responsibility to speak up if they think their driver is impaired.
On this point, the Liberty Mutual poll of teens has some more encouraging news. Almost all teen drivers, 94 percent, said they would stop driving if a passenger asked them to because the passenger said they were unsafe.
Ultimately, however, it's the drivers' responsibility to know not to get behind the wheel when they have been drinking. If the driver is not sure if he's had too much, he should stay where he is until he is sure.
These are good rules to follow any time of the year. But New Year's Eve, with its tradition of late-night partying by young people, is an important time to remember them.
Extra care tonight can make sure that people close to us stay safe on a night of celebration.