Don’t let drunk driving turn festive season tragic

IT IS A SEASON of joy and celebration – but too much celebration can lead to anything buy joy.

Christmas, New Year’s Eve and Day, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and many other holidays all fall within a short span of weeks as the year draws to a close.

That means lots of people on the roads driving to and from shopping, family gatherings, events, parties and more.

Add in winter weather beginning in full force — with snow, ice and cold — and the normal stress of driving only becomes exacerbated as the season gets going in full force.

That would be enough, but add in the increased alcohol consumption that comes with holiday parties, celebrations and events and it can become a costly, tragic and even deadly mix.

Wisconsin for many years has lagged behind other states in the strictness of its drunk driving laws – perhaps a product of our strong German heritage and long-standing brewing and distilling industries.

But the state has tightened up laws and rules on drunk driving over the past few years and, whether or not they match those in other states, the penalties for exceeding the legal limits for alcohol when driving are still severe.

Aside from the legal penalties – fines, suspended driver’s license and more – there are tremendous costs outside the courtroom. They include legal costs, increased costs for insurance, the impact of one or more operating while intoxicated convictions on future employment opportunities and more.

And if drunk driving leads to an accident, there are additional costs and impacts that are felt – including the incalculable cost and impact if the accident involves injury or death.

All of that is why law enforcement officials take drunk driving enforcement very seriously, especially at this time of year.

State and local law enforcement throughout the state are conducting their annual “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” campaign through New Year’s Day, with enhanced patrols and extended patrol hours.

“While law enforcement will make arrests and issue citations as necessary, the primary goal of these campaigns is to encourage voluntary compliance with laws designed to keep everyone safe,” David Pabst, director of the Department of Transportation Bureau of Transportation Safety said in a press release announcing the “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” campaign.

That statement recognizes that, like so many other things, prevention before the fact is much more effective in reducing the amount and impact of drunk driving than enforcement after the (often tragic) fact.

Responsibility for keeping roads and highways safe this holiday season rests and begins with all of us before we get behind the wheel.

The DOT offers a free Drive Sober mobile app which includes a blood alcohol estimator, designated driver selector and a find a ride feature that uses a smartphone’s GPS to locate alternative transportation.

All of those are wise steps to take for anyone whose holiday celebration includes alcohol and best of all, the app is free. The cost of not using it, or not following it, can be immeasurable.

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