By L.A. Williams
Christian Action League
December 22, 2023
December is laden with decisions: what to buy for whom, where to spend the holidays, what to make for Christmas dinner. The list goes on. But one of the most important choices anyone can make any time of year is not to drink and drive, says the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League.
“As we bask in the warmth of the Christmas season – a time filled with joy, laughter, and cherished moments with loved ones – it is crucial to make responsible choices to safeguard ourselves, our families, and our communities. We must unequivocally reject the perils of drunk driving,” he said. “Drunk driving not only jeopardizes the life of the driver but also poses a significant threat to other innocent road users.”
As a case in point, he mentioned the North Carolina family still recovering from a Dec. 10 crash in Selma caused by a drunk driver. The family was headed to church shortly after 9 a.m. that Sunday when their SUV was T-boned by a driver with a blood alcohol level of .17, more than twice the legal limit.
According to the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration, every day, around 37 people in the U.S. die in drunk-driving crashes. In 2021, more than 13,000 people lost their lives to alcohol-impaired drivers, a 14 percent increase from 2020. And December is a particularly deadly month. The NHSTA website shows that more than 4,561 people died that month in drunk-driving crashes from 2017 to 2021. In fact, recent data from the agency shows December drunk driving deaths are the highest in nearly 15 years.
Driving while impaired is also worsening in North Carolina, according to the NC Department of Transportation Crash Facts report. It shows that alcohol-related crashes and fatalities were significantly higher in 2020 than the prior five-year average even as the overall number of crashes declined. Drunk-driving accidents accounted for nearly 25% of all traffic fatalities that year, but just 4.6% of all crashes. To put it plainly, in North Carolina, you are approximately six times as likely to die if you’re involved in an alcohol-related crash than you are in a crash that does not involve alcohol.
Campaigns to prevent driving while impaired abound. “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” and “Drive High, Get a DUI” are two being sponsored by the NHSTA between now and Jan. 1. The federal agency has also signaled its intent to pursue legislation that would make it mandatory for automakers to include devices in vehicles that would detect impaired driving.
Creech said that while technological advances could greatly help the problem, the true solution is one of personal responsibility.
“Every year, we bear witness to countless lives shattered by the reckless decision to operate a vehicle while intoxicated. By steadfastly refusing to engage in drunk driving, we actively contribute to forging a safer and more secure community for all. The legal repercussions of drunk driving are severe, encompassing hefty fines, license suspension, and even imprisonment. A single momentary lapse in judgment can leave an indelible mark of devastation,” he said.
Emphasizing the warmth, generosity, and goodwill that mark this time of year, Creech said that responsible choices serve to preserve the essence of the holiday season and ensure that the spirit remains unmarred by avoidable tragedies. He also pointed out the fact that risks associated with increased alcohol consumption over the holidays extend well beyond the perils of drunk driving.
“If you have not contemplated it earnestly before, I implore you to consider abstaining from alcohol entirely this Christmas. Ponder the myriad of problems that could be entirely averted by abstaining from alcohol – regrettable words, reckless behaviors, ill-advised decisions, conflicts, misunderstandings, family disruptions, and tarnished reputations – all fueled by alcohol and likely to have never transpired had it not been for its influence,” Creech said.
To illustrate his point, he shared an anecdote about Abraham Lincoln traveling with a wealthy friend: During their journey, the friend offered Mr. Lincoln a rare cigar, which he graciously declined. Later, the friend proffered an exquisite whiskey and met again with Mr. Lincoln’s refusal. Persisting in his efforts, the man urged the President to partake, to which Lincoln responded, “My mother passed away when I was 9 years old. Before her passing, she extracted a promise from me that I would never indulge in tobacco or intoxicating beverages. I have upheld that promise to this day. Perhaps I should now break it and share a drink with you. What say you?” After careful reflection, the man replied, “Mr. President, my life would have undoubtedly been far better had my own mother demanded such a pledge from me. No, sir, you ought not to break it.”
Creech said countless life liabilities can be preemptively averted simply by abstaining from alcohol.
“I assure you that by choosing not to partake, the odds of experiencing a merry and bright Christmas this year will be significantly higher than if you did not,” he added.