SALEM, Ore. - Governor John Kitzhaber has proclaimed December as "3D Month" in recognition of "Drinking and Drugged Driving Awareness Month," a statewide effort aimed at reducing impaired driving during the holidays and into the new year.
While most drivers know that even one drink before getting behind the wheel can affect performance, many are unaware that prescription drugs and over-the-counter medicines can also impair driving.
"Drunk driving has traditionally received most of the attention but we're seeing more and more instances of impaired driving caused by illegal drugs as well as prescription and over the counter medications," said Impaired Driving Program Manager Dan Estes with the Oregon Department of Transportation. "Just because something is prescribed by a doctor or purchased legally like cold medicine doesn't mean that it can't cause a serious impairment or won't earn someone a DUI arrest if they choose to drive impaired. It's not about the substance; it's really about the impairment."
Key messages, running both statewide and around the country, encourage motorists to "Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over." Another one is "Buzzed driving is drunk driving," which emphasizes the fact that you don't have to be legally drunk – or even drinking alcohol – to be impaired.
Estes encourages drivers to talk with their doctors or pharmacists about medicines to find out if they can cause drowsiness or other impairments. To make a real impact on safety this holiday season, Estes encourages personal responsibility.
"When it comes right down to it, the choice to drive impaired is up to the individual," he said. "When a person makes the right choice in the very beginning, before they ever get behind the wheel, that's the most effective way to prevent impaired driving, before it ever starts."
Throughout December, extra law enforcement will be working around the clock to encourage safe driving practices. ODOT's partners in the effort include Oregon State Police, Oregon State Sheriff's Association, and Oregon Association Chiefs of Police, and other safety advocates.
In 2012 in Oregon, 37 percent of crashes in which someone died involved an impaired driver. Over the past decade in the state, more than 2,000 individuals were killed and over 10,000 people were injured by drinking and drugged drivers. The financial cost of those losses is more than $9 billion, but that's minimal compared to the pain of losing a loved one. If you are planning to host or attend a holiday get-together this season, here are a few safety tips:
- Have designated drivers. Plan to have sober drivers at your party who can help get folks home safely. Volunteer to be a sober driver at someone else's party.
- Plan to stay overnight. Make pre-arrangements to stay overnight at your friend's home or in a hotel room where you won't have to drive if you have been drinking.
- Monitor car keys. Collect your guests' car keys at the beginning of your event. Then, talk with your guests before they leave about the best transportation options for them.
- Be ready with a cab fare fund. Having available cash to pay cab fare for your guests if they need it reduces the stress on you. If you can't afford to pay for it yourself, ask your guests to pitch in a few bucks on your invitation. And keep phone numbers handy.
- Purchase plenty of non-alcoholic beverages. Always have soft drinks, juices and other non-alcoholic beverages available for those guests who choose not to drink.
For tips on helping young people avoid dangerous situations involving drugs, drinking and driving, or to learn about other programs aimed at reducing impaired driving, visit http://www.nhtsa.gov/Impaired. Everyone, every day is encouraged to report impaired drivers to 9-1-1 or Oregon State Police at 1-800-24DRUNK (800-243-7865).
Total Oregon fatal crashes involving alcohol and/or drugs during the month of December, 2003 – 2012