Holiday parties and celebrations can be some of the most exciting events of the year. Unfortunately, for thousands of Americans, holiday celebrations turn into tragedy.
Why? Because people drink more over the holiday season, which increases the risk of driving while intoxicated. Many drivers end up with a DWI, and many families are affected by accidents and fatalities.
DWI Stats During the Holidays
Americans see increased DWI rates during pretty much all of the big holidays and the weeks surrounding them, but the stats during winter holidays are especially unnerving.
How bad is it?
- One-quarter of the distilled spirits industry’s profits come from the holiday season (between Thanksgiving and New Year’s.)
- Known DUI offenders increase their drinking rates by 33% during the holiday season
- Studies from 2001-2005 showed that outside of the holiday season, an average of 36 DWI-related fatalities occur each day. During the Christmas season, that number jumped to 45. Around New Year’s, that number increased further to 54.
- Over half of all fatal collisions during the holiday season involve alcohol consumption.
These statistics are horrifying, but they aren’t necessarily surprising. When people increase alcohol consumption, they increase the chances that they will get behind the wheel intoxicated.
Why Do People Drink More During the Holiday Season?
Lots of reasons.
- Drinking is a part of the holiday culture. We have mulled wine at Christmas, champagne on New Year’s Eve, a beer with family at Thanksgiving – alcohol has become a part of the way we indulge during the holidays.
- The holiday season can put a lot of financial stress on adults and families, and alcohol is a form of stress relief for many people.
- People may also use a beer or a glass of wine to deal with loneliness or depression, which is at an all-time high during the holidays.
- Holiday parties may extend late into the evening after public transportation stops running.
- Parents may allow their underage children to have a drink for the “special occasion.” Minors who are new to drinking may not be able to recognize what a .08 BAC feels like.
- Adults may not know what a .08 limit feels like, either. As little as two beers can put some people over the legal limit. More might be over the legal limit from a glass or two of champagne.
- Family gatherings may take place outside of the city, where there is limited public transportation or access to rideshares.
- Extended family may be visiting, leaving little room for some family members to crash for the night.
None of these reasons are excuses to get behind the wheel when you are above the legal limit. They do, however, explain why North Carolina DWI rates are so high between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve.
What You Should Know about North Carolina DWI Laws
Our state takes DWI very seriously. There are five levels of DWI in North Carolina, with penalties that range from 60 days in jail to up to two years. If you get in an accident and injure or kill another person, you may face more serious charges.
Our state also charges habitual drunk drivers with a felony crime. Additional penalties may include the loss of your driver’s license, alcohol counseling, or required ignition interlock device installation in your car.
When you have a DWI conviction on your record, you will face harsher penalties and will have more of an uphill battle to face in court. Each charge should be treated with the same urgency or aggressiveness.
Avoid Driving Under the Influence This Holiday Season in NC
There are ways to defend against DWI charges in North Carolina, but the best way to avoid a conviction is to avoid charges altogether. Stay safe this holiday season by planning ahead and backing away from the booze.
Book a hotel before it gets pricy.
Be proactive and book a place to stay when you start planning your holiday trips. If you can’t afford a hotel, get a leg up on your family members and ask for a place to crash as soon as possible.
Know the costs of DWI.
A rideshare can be a painful one-time charge, but it’s nothing compared to the price of lost income, fines, and IID installation from DWI charges. Think of your taxi or hotel as an “investment” in your future. After all, the repercussions of a DWI go beyond the initial penalties.
Assign a designated driver.
Ever heard “But I thought you were DD!” before? Clearly communicate who will be the sober participant for each holiday gathering to avoid confusion and ensure that one person will be sober enough to drive home.
No one wants to be DD every outing. Take turns and give your designated driver a chance to enjoy a glass of wine at the next holiday party or gathering. Step up as designated driver once and a while to take the pressure off DD assignments.
It is possible to keep you and your family safe in 2018 and beyond. Plan carefully, think before you drink, and enjoy your holiday season!