The holidays are a time for getting together with family and uniting over shared memories and favorite meals. Childhood ornaments are hung on the Christmas tree, a careful practice which household pets and young children often frustrate by removing the “low-hanging fruit.” Relatives linger around the dining room table snacking on stale cookies and sipping warm drinks or the last of the red wine. It is a time of warmth and laughter. However, when long meals meet jovial story-telling and vacation from work, it is often easy to drink more alcohol that we would on a typical night.
Either due to vacation time, family obligations, or general festivity, Americans tend to drink more on holidays than they do the rest of the year. This effect is most noticeable on Mardi Gras, New Year’s Eve, and St. Patrick’s Day, when adults consume an average of over four drinks a person. The effect is less noticeable on Christmas, when Americans consume closer to three drinks each. The most common drinks consumed over Christmas are champagne, wine, and beer – beverages that lend themselves to celebration and pair well with big meals. At New Year’s, the preferences for beer and wine shift to hard alcohol like tequila and vodka. 
However, after everyone enjoys a little extra alcohol over the holidays, they have to find their way back to home or hotels at the end of the night. This results in an increased number of arrests for driving under the influence (DUI) over the holidays. For the past five years, an average of 300 people died in drunk driving accidents in the United States during the week between Christmas and New Year’s. In 2016, 781 people died in drunk driving accidents just in the month of December. 
Alcohol is dangerous when paired with self-transport, because it reduces brain function and impairs reasoning and muscle coordination. The more alcohol a person consumes, the more pronounced these effects are. In Nevada and most other states it is illegal to drive with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 or higher, but even a small amount of alcohol can affect a person’s ability to operate a motor vehicle. With a BAC of .02, a person might experience some loss of judgement and an altered mood, as well as a decline in visual functions and a decreased ability to perform two tasks at once. With a BAC of .05, an individual may begin to lose small muscle control and may have impaired judgement, reduced coordination, and difficulty tracking objects. By the time one is driving with an illegal BAC, muscle coordination is very poor, and judgment, self-control, reasoning, and memory are very impaired. 
With increased holiday alcohol consumption paired with travel to visit family and friends, alcohol-impaired drivers are hard to avoid and DUI accidents increase overall during the festive seasonos. Some cities are trying to reduce the risk of injury by providing safe ride services for residents over the holidays. In Reno, Nevada, the Regional Transportation Commission is offering free transit on New Year’s Eve from 6 p.m. until 2 a.m. on New Year’s Day. This is the 34th year that the agency has offered free rides through its Safe Ride program.  The Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada will also be offering free rides on fixed routes in Las Vegas from 6 p.m. to 9 a.m. 
If, despite taking reasonable precautions for your own safety, you are hit and injured by a drunk or distracted driver over the winter holidays, call the police immediately so that there is a record of the accident. Collect as much information as possible, including taking pictures of the scene and the other driver’s vehicle. Seek necessary medical treatment as soon as possible and cooperate with the responding officers. Finally, speak to a personal injury attorney to make sure you protect your legal rights.
Image Credit: Michael R. Holzworth of the United States Air Force