Drive safe this Holiday Season

  • Published
  • By SSgt Matthew Richter
  • 509th Operational Medical Readiness Squadron

During the holiday season, I think of being warm and cozy with family, friends, and other loved ones, so it is always important to me to cherish those I have during this time of year by being safe. One of the ways I can do this is by remaining vigilant and aware of some risks that holiday cheer may bring. A large risk is driving while drunk or intoxicated. According to NHTSA 11,654 people in the United States died in car crashes with an alcohol-impaired driver in 2020 alone. That’s one death every 45 minutes.

As the holidays approach and the invitations start to flood in, I suggest you think about what kinds of situations you are going to be in. These could be invitations to a close friend’s house, office celebrations, return home parties, and more. In all these scenarios, alcohol or other substances can be present and could be used in excess. While the NHTSA’s “Buzzed Driving Is Drunk Driving” campaign discussed the facts about driving while intoxicated, it’s important to know that many substances can impair driving as well.

In my time as a Certified Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselor (CADC), I have seen time and time again where alcohol has affected our service members in more ways than one. During the winter months, alcohol and other substances may be used to cover up, numb down, or to escape unwanted feelings. The “holiday blues” are important to look out for in your peers, as they may be covering up more serious issues. Stressors fly at us from all directions, ranging from being away from family to raising a family of our own. Having the conversation on how you and your family can prevent dangerous situations is important. Start the conversation by:

  • Sharing resources designed for youths that communicate the facts and consequences, like Underage Drinking: Myths vs. Facts and the Tips for Teens series.
  • If you have young adults, setting curfews if they go to a party and offering to drive them or pick them up. Even if your teen abstains from alcohol, they may have a hard time saying “no thanks” to a peer driver who is drinking.
  • Discussing how you are going to get home.
  • Having a backup plan, in the case things don’t go to plan.

I believe that when it comes to alcohol, the more knowledge the better. With alcohol being a depressant drug, this means the more you ingest, the more your body starts to shut down. The National Safety Council conducted a study that showed that even after one drink your thoughts, judgement, coordination, and concentration are all impaired. After three drinks your coordination and reaction time are significantly slowed which commonly cause DWI’s. No matter how long you have been drinking or how well you may feel, your blood alcohol concentration may tell a different story. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) defines a standard drink as 12 ounces of 5% alcohol by volume of beer, 5 ounces of 12% wine, and 1.5 ounces of 40% liquor. Using a BAC calculator each drink can raise your BAC up to 0.02 or 0.03. Just a reminder that that federal and state legal limit is 0.08. That can be as little three to four drinks! Even if you are under the legal limit, you may still be given a citation for driving while intoxicated if you are significantly impaired.

This holiday season, it is all our responsibility to prevent dangerous behavior in ourselves, our family, and our community. If you or someone you love needs mental health support and services, I encourage you to call the Mental Health Clinic and ADAPT at 660-687-4341. If he or she is in crisis, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline offers free and confidential support: 1-800-273-TALK. For additional resources available at Whiteman AFB, call 660-687-HELP for information about helping agencies on base. Do not feel hesitant to reach out for help.

Stay stealthy Whiteman!