Vail Daily column: Time to put an end to drunk driving

Mikayla Curtis
Valley Voices

Our community has recently experienced overwhelming tragedy related to impaired driving, greatly impacting our youth and their families, as well as youth-serving organizations that are focused on preventing such tragedies. Two amazing young people from our community lost their lives needlessly this summer because of impaired decision making and others have suffered serious injuries and have had their lives altered severely. Our hearts go out to everyone who has been impacted by these events. It’s unfortunate that such tragedies have to remind us that impaired driving is a community concern that needs to be addressed. Our youth are too important and the stakes are too high.

Over 10,000 people are killed in alcohol-impaired-driving crashes every year in the United States. In 2012, the families of 10,322 people were devastated by the tragic, preventable death of loved ones in alcohol-involved crashes. Young drivers (18-34) represent the largest segment of drunk drivers in the United States; among the people killed in drunk-driving crashes over the Labor Day holiday weekend, for example, almost half (45 percent) were between the ages of 18 and 34. For those under the age of 21, it was illegal to consume alcohol, yet they did drink, and in addition chose to drive after drinking.

Drunk driving is reckless and preventable, and it’s up to all of us to get that point across. Impaired driving continues to put thousands of travelers at risk every day. Note these are all called crashes — not accidents — because they’re preventable, whereas accidents are not. We can prevent these crashes and save lives by not choosing to drive impaired from alcohol, marijuana or prescription drugs.

It’s time to get serious about this matter and put an end to it in our community and in our nation. Don’t let your friends or family members drive drunk; don’t choose to ride with them when they’ve been drinking. Make a safe driving plan before drinking begins and alert Colorado State Patrol immediately if you suspect drunk driving. It is up to each and every one of us to make decisions that keep our entire community safe, to discuss responsible decision making with our young people, friends and family members, and to step up and say something when we suspect anything.

This year’s “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” high-visibility crackdown began Aug. 15 and will run through the Labor Day holiday on Monday. This time period is targeted because holiday weekends bring a surge in drunk-driving. In 2012, there were 147 people killed in alcohol-impaired-driving crashes over Labor Day weekend (6 p.m. Friday through 5:59 a.m. Tuesday). With one person, on average, dying every 34 minutes in a drunk-driving crash over the Labor Day period, that’s a lot of lives that could be saved.

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The Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign needs your participation to be a success. Your law enforcement and safety colleagues across the nation are counting on your support. Drivers in your area look to you for protection. If your participation in the crackdown prevents one crash or saves someone from a serious injury or death, then success can be claimed.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in partnership with law enforcement organizations, governors, state and local highway officials and community organizations across the nation, is calling on you to help put an end to drunk driving.

Mikayla Curtis is the resource development coordinator at the Eagle River Youth Coalition, a local nonprofit organization that offers and supports collaborative prevention programs and services.

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