Don’t let drunken driving wreck the holidays

By Thomana Flores, Fort Bliss Prevention Specialist:

(El Paso, Texas, Dec. 7, 2017)

This is a time of year full of celebration and joy. People will travel to visit family. There will be holiday festivities throughout the city. Children will be patiently waiting for Christmas day to arrive. Yes, it’s December and a time of year for giving. Fortunately, for all of us and for the safety of the public, law enforcement doesn’t take the holidays off.

The rates for driving while intoxicated typically rise during the holiday season, more than at any other time of the year. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 29 people a day in the United States die from alcohol-impaired vehicle crashes. That equates to one person every 50 minutes. In 2010, the most recent year that has an analysis of cost data, deaths and damages contributed to a cost of $44 billion.

The “Out for Blood” and “National Drunk and Drugged Driving Prevention (3-D) Month” campaign have been implemented during these holiday season. Out for Blood is a campaign that involves law enforcement officers obtaining evidence of intoxication by way of a breath sample. If a person refuses, officers can obtain a warrant, with probable cause, from a magistrate to allow the officer to have a licensed professional draw blood as evidence. These types of awareness programs are designed to ensure people make good, healthy choices. The 3-D campaign is designed to educate people regarding the effects of drinking and driving during the holidays. The month reminds us to “designate before we celebrate” and encourages implementing a plan to get home safely before the drinking begins.

If you plan on attending social gatherings, make sure you have a plan. If you are not 21, it is not legal to consume alcohol. If you are 21 or older, have a responsible plan prior to consuming alcohol. Ensure you have a designated driver. In addition, always have a backup plan and never drink and drive. If you are planning to host a party or social gathering where alcohol will be served, you are responsible for monitoring the alcohol consumption of your guests and may be held accountable if someone consumes alcohol under the age of 21 or leaves your party and drives drunk.

There are several resources available for service members, their families and Department of the Army civilians with information on prevention efforts and the consequences of drinking and driving. Service members can contact their battalion or unit prevention leaders to pick up awareness and marketing materials. In addition, the Army Substance Abuse Program provides a long list of prevention services. Those include Risk Reduction, Suicide Prevention and Drug and Alcohol Prevention. In addition, civilians can contact the Employee Assistance Program.

The outcomes of drinking and driving are preventable. There is no excuse to drink and drive and the law reflects this. Don’t risk your career, freedom or life because of bad choices. Make this holiday count by not taking the risk of endangering the lives of yourself or others.

The penalties for a first-offense DWI in Texas include a minimum jail term of three to 180 days; fines and penalties up to $2,000 (unless a child younger than 15 was in the vehicle); and a license suspension of 90 to 365 days.

The penalties for a second-offense DWI in Texas include a minimum jail term of 30 days to one year; fines and penalties up to $4,000 (unless a child younger than 15 was in the vehicle); a license suspension of 180 days to two years and interlock ignition required.

The penalties for a third-offense DWI in Texas include a minimum prison term of two years; fines and penalties up to $10,000; a license suspension of 180 days to two years and interlock ignition required.

The penalties for service members may include a chapter out of the military.