A reminder to drive sober during the holidays

This year, let’s make sure sweaters are the only thing ugly about celebrating the season.

The holidays are a busy time to celebrate with family, friends and co-workers. But it also is one of the deadliest times of year for drunken- and drugged-driving fatalities, authorities say. That is why law enforcement officers, in partnership with the Office of Highway Safety Planning, are working to encourage safe, sober driving this holiday season.

The national enforcement campaign Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over started Thursday and extends through New Year’s Eve. During this period, law enforcement officers will show zero tolerance for drunken and drugged driving statewide. Increased enforcement, along with more messages about the dangers of impaired driving, aim to drastically reduce crashes, fatalities and injuries on the roadways.

“Driving while impaired by any substance — alcohol or drugs — is illegal and can have deadly consequences,” said Michael L. Prince, director of the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning, or OHSP. “It’s important for people to understand they need to make the smart decision to drive sober. If you’re out celebrating this holiday season, or any day, it’s crucial to plan a safe way home.”

In Michigan, impaired driving represented 45.7 percent of all traffic fatalities in 2017. There were 937 fatal crashes in Michigan in 2017, of which 320, or 34.2 percent, were alcohol-related. The percentage of alcohol-related fatalities was approximately 11.6 times higher than fatalities in all other crashes.

In addition, 174 drivers tested positive for cannabinoid drug use who were involved in 169 motor vehicle crashes in 2017 in Michigan. In those crashes, 144 people were killed and 156 injured.

Nationally, 10,874 people died in drunken driving crashes in 2017, equating to one person killed every 48 minutes. In December 2017, 885 people lost their lives in crashes involving a drunken driver.

Officers during this campaign will keep close watch for motorists under the influence of drugs and alcohol. Impairment of any kind while driving is illegal. If a person chooses to drive while impaired, they can be arrested for a DUI and could face jail time.

The Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign is supported with federal traffic safety funds provided by the U.S. Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and coordinated by the OHSP.