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Study: week before Christmas riskiest for drunk driving wrecks

"People at this time of year are anxious to get their shopping done, and they may be frustrated, and other people can aggravate them," says a researcher from the University of Alabama, who just completed an analysis of the distribution of traffic accidents near holidays. As we discussed on this blog in July, holidays are active times for drunk drivers, which tragically means that many families are forced to associate the holiday season with the death of a loved one.

"It used to be my favorite holiday. It's not anymore,” one woman said of Christmas, speaking to reporters about her parents’ and grandmother’s deaths in a drunk driving accident on Christmas Day 2007.” We still try to do the same Christmas Eve traditions, but it's just a reminder of how difficult it really is. I don't like the music, I don't like the decorations."

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 1,091 people in the U.S. were killed in drunk driving accidents last year in the period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve. Yet Mothers Against Drunk Driving says it’s still far too socially acceptable for people to drive drunk. According to a recent online survey by MADD, 73 percent of people 21 and older said they had observed someone try to drive home drunk after at least one event they attended.

The new study by the University of Alabama’s Center for Advanced Public Safety found, unfortunately that Christmas week is among the most risky times for serious traffic accidents in that state, and there’s no reason to suspect it’s any different here in Texas.

While crashes also clustered around New Year’s and Thanksgiving, as well, Christmas and the five days leading up to were even more dangerous, according to the study, with drunken and drugged drivers as compounding the problem. There were 18 percent more crashes during those six-days last year than in the period surrounding Thanksgiving; 27 percent more than on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day combined.

"We want people to decide before they even leave home, before they even have their first drink, how they're going to get home with a designated, non-drinking driver," urged MADD’s national president.

The simple truth is that drunk driving accidents are completely avoidable, if we plan ahead and work together. If you see an intoxicated person about to get behind the wheel, don’t let him or her go.

Source: USA TODAY, "Holiday revelers urged to avoid drunken driving," Larry Copeland, Dec. 11, 2013

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