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Impaired driving incidents increase during the winter months

Guest Opinion
Rick Birt, Students Against Destructive Decisions

In addition to the increased risk of dangerous weather with icy roads and snow during winter months, there is also a significant uptick in impaired driving during winter months.
In fact, 40 percent of highway deaths during winter are alcohol-related, according to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
Impaired driving is when someone operates a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol.
The legal limit is 0.08 percent blood alcohol content (BAC), but it is important to remember that you are impaired after the first drink.
Depending on factors such as body size, gender, hydration and calories consumed that day, many people are drunk far before reaching .08 percent BAC.
It is important to note that other illicit drugs, including cannabis, also cause significant impairments to reaction time and ability to drive safely.
Because of this, we should focus on practicing defensive driving, trying to predict potential hazards, which can include anything from potential reckless drivers to bad weather, and never drive aggressively.
Here are some other ways to drive defensively and safely:
Focus. Distracted driving is a leading cause of crashes on our roadways. There are three types of distraction behind the wheel: visual (taking your eyes off the road), manual (taking your hands off the wheel), and cognitive (taking your mind off driving).
We can be distracted by passengers in the car, things or people we are passing on the road, music, maps, eating, and, most notably, our phones.
Try not to let anything distract you while you drive, especially knowing how many folks are on the roadways impaired this time of year.
Plan ahead. Leave plenty of time in your schedule so you are not running late. Rushing causes chaos and distraction which can impede your ability to concentrate on the road.
Make sure you have prepared and checked your route, packed your car in advance, and even set up your playlist or podcast before you ever put the car in drive.
Take your time. Take an extra beat at stop signs and red lights and always adhere to the posted speed limit. Adding a few extra minutes to your drive is far from the worst thing that can happen on your travels.
Rest up. Make sure you get enough sleep before getting behind the wheel.
According to the National Safety Council, drowsy driving is the cause of 100,000 crashes, 71,000 injuries and 1,550 fatalities every year, and that you are three times as likely to get into a car crash if you are tired.
On long road trips, try to always drive in shifts with a passenger so you can rest.
If you find yourself nodding off while you drive, find a safe place to pull over as quickly as possible, such as a well-lit rest stop or other location where you won’t block the roadways and are highly visible, and rest as long as you need.
Make sure you talk to your family and friends about the dangers of impaired driving and make a game plan so that everyone always has a sober ride home.
On behalf of SADD Nation and all our youth leaders at Students Against Destructive Decisions, I wish you and yours a happy, safe and healthy new year.

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