Sunday marked the first day of National Impaired Driving Prevention Month, the goal of which is to raise awareness about the consequences of driving impaired and the opportunity to further prevent instances of impaired driving.
“The season between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day is what the National Association of Drug Court Professionals describes as ‘one of the deadliest and most dangerous times on America’s roadways due to an increase in impaired driving,’” according to the American Public Health Association.
Under Colorado law, no person may drive a vehicle while under the influence of drugs or while a person’s ability to drive is impaired by alcohol or drugs or both “to a degree that he or she is substantially incapable, mentally or physically, to exercise clear judgement, sufficient physical control or due care in the safe operation of a vehicle,” according to Colorado Revised Statutes Section 42-4-1301.
And still, the statistics are harrowing.
According to the Colorado Department of Transportation, Colorado State Patrol officers and other law enforcement members arrested 228 drivers throughout the state from Oct. 31 to Nov. 4 during their annual The Heat is On DUI enforcement initiative with CDOT. But, in promising news, this number is down from 378 arrests made during the same enforcement period in 2018.
Colorado Springs police made 23 arrests, according to CDOT, the second-highest arrest total out of the 91 agencies who participated statewide.
Unfortunately, impaired driving is still an all-too-common problem that takes the lives of thousands of people every year, and negatively impacts the lives of thousands. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 29 people in the U.S. die every day in motor vehicle crashes that involve an alcohol-impaired driver. That equates to one death every 50 minutes. And in 2014, the most recent year for which data is available, 111 adults self-reported alcohol-impaired driving episodes.
Organizations like Mothers Against Drunk Driving, with two Colorado Springs locations, work to support victims of impaired driving, advocate for stronger laws and work to create a future of “No More Victims.” Local law enforcement agencies are also working to keep impaired drivers off our streets, but these men and women can only do so much. It’s up to us to stop the problem in its tracks.
Fortunately, changing these statistics for the better is in our hands.
State Farm offers ways to stop impaired driving:
• Always choose a non-drinking designated driver — every time you go out.
• If you go out alone, do not drink alcohol or consume drugs. Order a non-alcoholic beverage such as a soft drink or water.
• Never feel pressured to drink alcohol or do drugs. If you do plan on drinking, do so responsibly. Eat plenty of food and drink water.
• If you’ve been drinking or using narcotics, call a taxi or car-sharing service for a ride, like Uber or Lyft.
• Never get in a car with a driver who has been drinking, using drugs or both.
• Protect others by taking their keys if they attempt to drive after consuming alcohol or drugs. They may be angry, but the alternative is much worse.
Lastly: always call 911 if you suspect an impaired driver.
Here’s to wishing everyone happy, safe and responsible holiday celebrations.
Breeanna Jent is a multi-beat journalist who has reported previously in California and across Colorado’s Front Range. She has lived in the Pikes Peak region for four years and joined the Pikes Peak Newspapers team as editorial assistant in January 2018. Drop her a line or send your calendar events and community photos to firstname.lastname@example.org.