No parent wants to believe their child would put themself in harm’s way by driving while impaired or riding with another driver who is under the influence of drugs or alcohol. However, living in denial about the possibility of your teen driver taking part in these life-threatening activities is one of the most dangerous approaches parents can take when it comes to the issue.
Driving when you’re impaired or distracted is always dangerous – but add low visibility, the potential for ice and snow and the pressures that come with the holiday season, and December just might be one of the most dangerous months to be on the road. This year, avoid the four most dangerous holiday driving hazards.
Read before you go: What to do if you get stuck in the snow
The four most dangerous holiday driving hazards
1. Distracted Driving
Driving while using cell phones for both talking and texting holiday messages can put you and other drivers at risk. Pull over when using your smart phone to check out store hours and locations.
2. Drunk Driving
Holiday dinners and celebrations frequently include alcohol, and sometimes, even drugs. In 2014, 12,480 OVI-related crashes occurred on Ohio roadways. These resulted in 340 deaths and more than 7,000 injuries, according to the Department of Public Safety. December was among the top months, with 1,104 impaired driving crashes. “This holiday season, give yourself the gift of a designated driver,” urges Elk & Elk Managing Partner Arthur M. Elk. “If you plan on consuming alcohol, take a cab, designate a sober driver or use a ridesharing app like Uber or Lyft to help get you home safely.”
“This holiday season, give yourself the gift of a designated driver.”
– Arthur M. Elk
3. Emotional Driving
Stress brought on by the holidays can be overwhelming and those emotions have a serious effect on our driving. If you are worried, upset, frightened, depressed or even feeling extremely happy, your driving skills can be as diminished as they would be if you were texting or intoxicated. Drivers often react to these pressures by driving too fast for conditions, making aggressive lane changes, failing to yield right-of-way and generally disregarding the needs and safety of others using the road.
4. Drowsy Driving
Busy schedules during the winter holidays can lead to insufficient sleep, warns Elk. “Drowsy driving can decrease your reaction time, impair your vision or judgment and can increase your chances of getting into a car crash.”
Even if you take steps to avoid common holiday driving hazards, bad weather or the actions of other drivers may cause a traffic crash to occur. Make sure you have these essential winter items in your car at all times.
 Ohio Department of Public Safety. Ohio Traffic Crash Facts 2014. Columbus, 2015. http://www.publicsafety.ohio.gov/links/2014CrashFacts.pdf
The Portage County Safe Communities Coalition kicked off their annual “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” event on Monday, August 17, 2015 at Robinson Memorial Hospital. The event featured local speakers who have endured personal losses due to alcohol-related crashes, local law enforcement and government officials.
Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over is a partnership with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to curb impaired driving and save lives. August 21-September 7 (Labor Day), law enforcement partners nationwide will show zero tolerance for drunk driving. Increased state and national messaging about the dangers of driving drunk, coupled with checkpoints and increased officers on the road, aim to drastically reduce the toll of drunk driving.
“Portage County Safe Communities’ goal is to not only prepare the public for the national Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over Campaign, but also to remind everyone their choice to drink and drive creates a danger for all of us on the roadways,” says Lynette Blasiman, the Director of Portage County Safe Communities Coalition.
During the event, members of the Coalition recognized Troopers for a Safer Ohio and David Elk of the Elk & Elk law firm for their commitment to reducing drunk and distracted driving. Earlier this year, Elk & Elk was the Presenting Sponsor of the 2015 None 4 Under 21 and Choices Beyond event, which focuses on the long-term consequences of everyday choices and seeks to reduce preventable teen crashes due to drunk and distracted driving. “Unfortunately, as personal injury lawyers, we see the devastating effects of drunk and distracted driving every day,” says Elk. “It is our privilege to provide financial support and other contributions, enabling more than 2,000 Northeast Ohio high school students to attend this life-saving event each year.”
Prom and graduation season is exciting, but unfortunately, the months of April, May, and June are also the most dangerous times for high school students. Car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens. One out of three teen crashes is alcohol related and distracted driving results in thousands of deaths.
To help reduce teen deaths and injuries and encourage safe driving, each spring, Elk & Elk sponsors None 4 Under 21 and Choices Beyond. This community-based event encourages high school students to make safe driving choices and demonstrates the serious consequences of drunk and distracted driving.
While drunk driving is a serious problem, distracted driving has emerged as a dangerous epidemic on America’s roadways. That’s why we feel it is important to go beyond the message of drinking and driving and talk about the message of distractions.
Distracted driving is any non-driving activity a person engages in that has the potential to distract them from the primary task of driving and increase the risk of crashing. Distractions include, talking or texting on a cell phone, grooming, eating or drinking, changing radio stations, or talking to passengers.
Distracted Driving: Alarming Teen Statistics
- In 2013, 3,154 people were killed, and an estimated 424,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving a distracted driver.
- A recent analysis of crash videos revealed distraction was a factor in nearly 6 out of 10 moderate-to-severe teen crashes, which is four times higher than previous official estimates.
- Sending or receiving a text takes a driver’s eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds—the equivalent of driving blind at 55-mph for the length of an entire football field.
- If you text and drive, you’re 23 times more likely to be in a car accident.
We know talking to young adults about drunk and distracted driving can be difficult. To help start the conversation, we encourage you to join Elk & Elk’s effort to promote safe driving by downloading our free Parent-Teen Pledge. It is designed to help families set ground rules for both teen drivers and adults. After you sign it, hang the Pledge by the car keys or near the front door as a reminder to drive responsibly. Don’t just sign the Pledge, take it to heart. It just might save a life.
“AAA: Distracted driving a huge factor in teen driver crashes” by Wyatt Andrews, CBS News, March 25, 2015
For many people, Labor Day means a road trip to celebrate the final days of warm weather with family and friends. AAA predicts more than 1.4 million Ohioans will travel at least 50 miles from home during the holiday weekend, with national estimates just under 35 million.
Unfortunately, the busy holiday traffic also means an increase in motor vehicle accidents. According to the National Safety Council (NCS), about 395 people will be killed and another 42,300 will be injured in car crashes during Labor Day weekend. Of those, NCS estimates 144 lives could be saved if all drivers and their passengers wear seat belts.
Don’t be a statistic
“Labor Day weekend marks the end of summer activities – it should be a time of celebration,” said Deborah A.P. Hersman president and CEO of NSC. “Unfortunately this weekend will be a time of tragedy for hundreds of families that experience a preventable fatality on our roadways.”
- Don’t drink and drive. Designate a non-drinking driver or plan for alternative transportation, such as a taxi
- Turn it off. All drivers should refrain from using cell phones – handheld or hands-free – because there is no safe way to use a cell phone while driving
- Eyes on the road. Do not manipulate in-vehicle infotainment systems or electronic devices, including GPS systems, while the vehicle is in motion
- Buckle up. Make sure all passengers use their safety belts and children are in safety seats appropriate for their age and size
- Take your time. Allow plenty of travel time to avoid frustration and diminish the impulse to speed
- Use your head. Drive defensively, check your blind spots and exercise caution, especially during inclement weather
From all of us at Elk & Elk,
Have a safe and happy Labor Day weekend!
by Arthur Elk
In a report released earlier this week, the National Transportation Safety Board recommended that all 50 states should lower the threshold for drunk driving from .08 to .05 blood alcohol content (BAC). According to the Washington Post, “That’s about one drink for a woman weighing less than 120 pounds, two for a 160-pound man.”
The board said levels as low as .01 were found to affect performance on driving-related skills. They also cited a 2012 study which found “significant cognitive decrements in speed of information processing, reductions in working memory, and increases in errors of commission at 0.048 BAC.”
The number of alcohol-related highway fatalities dropped from 20,000 in 1980 to 9,878 in 2011, according to the NTSB. However, they feel the rates have stagnated and feel lowering the BAC rate would save about 500 to 800 lives each year:
Over the past three decades, the number of lives lost per year in alcohol-related traffic crashes has dropped substantially. However, most of this reduction took place during the 1980s and early 1990s; since then, progress in this safety area has been relatively slow. Since 2000, nearly 150,000 people have lost their lives in crashes involving alcohol-impaired drivers, and these crashes continue to account for over 30 percent of all traffic fatalities. — NTSB, “Reaching Zero: Actions to Eliminate Alcohol-Impaired Driving“
The last move from .10 to .08 BAC levels took 21 years for all states to implement, with the last state adopting the standard in 2004. That move was prompted in part by an Appropriations Act that included the landmark provision that states must enact .08 BAC laws by 2004 or begin losing federal highway construction funds. Prior to the enactment of this bill, only nineteen states had enacted .08 BAC
Response to the report has been mixed. So far, safety groups such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and AAA have declined to endorse the proposed .05 limit The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, while not endorsing the board’s recommendation, said in a statement that they “…will work with any state that chooses to implement a .05 BAC law to gather further information on that approach.”
At Elk & Elk, we have seen the serious consequences of drunk driving far too many times. There is no reason we should allow 10,000 people a year to die when we have the ability to pass laws to prevent such senseless deaths. If anybody has more than one drink, they should not be behind the wheel of an automobile.
If .05 will save lives, let’s do it now.
If you or a loved one have been injured by a drunk driver, we will fight to help you get the compensation you deserve. Our Ohio auto accident attorneys are available 24/7 to serve you. We offer free consultations and never charge anything unless you recover.
By Arthur Elk
Drunk driving is a tragic problem in our country. Thousands of people lose their lives senselessly each year because of the wrong choices others make to get behind the wheel after drinking.
As a personal injury attorney, I’ve seen the sad consequences of drunk driving too many times. Often, the drunk drivers are repeat offenders. If you’re like me, you’ve heard too many stories on the news about drivers being convicted of drunk driving for the 10th, 15th or even the 20th time.
That’s why I was very interested to hear about the unique sentence a Northeast Ohio judge imposed on a first-time drunk driving offender earlier this week.
Painesville Municipal Court Judge Mike Cicconetti is known for handing down some interesting sentences. In 2005, Cicconetti sentenced 26-year-old Michelle Murray to spend a night out in the cold for abandoning 33 kittens in the dead of winter, nine of which died.
In Cicconetti’s court on Tuesday, first time OVI offender Jonathan Tarase, 27, was sentenced to 65 days in jail, with 60 of the days suspended, probation for six months, a $600 fine and no driving privileges for 15 days. But there was another twist. Tarase will have to view the bodies of two car accident victims at a local hospital ER or coroner’s office. Cicconetti wants to make sure that Tarase learns the lesson that drunken driving kills.
I think it’s great to see a judge thinking of creative new ways to fight the deadly problem of drunk driving. If just this one offender can learn a lesson and never drive drunk again, the experiment will be a success. Hopefully other judges will continue to come up with other new ways to try to keep drunk drivers off the road.
Please stay safe. Don’t drink and drive.
By Arthur Elk
Every year, the New Year’s holiday is one of the deadliest times of year on our country’s roads. The mix of wintry weather in much of the country and impaired drivers can make a very dangerous combination.
The Ohio Highway Patrol reports that six people were killed on Ohio’s roadways during the New Year’s holiday reporting period, which was Monday, Dec. 31, 2012, and Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013. Last year, 14 people were killed in Ohio during the four-day New Year’s holiday reporting period.
In 2012, the number of people killed on Ohio roads increased compared with 2011’s record low, even as troopers from the State Highway Patrol made thousands more stops for drug violations, impaired driving and other problems. The patrol reported at least 1,056 deaths in 962 fatal crashes during the past year, up from 1,015 deaths in 2011, which was the lowest total since record-keeping began in 1936.
The patrol has set the goal of lowering the number of traffic fatalities below 1,000 this year. To reach that goal, the patrol plans to continue its focus on impaired driving and high-visibility enforcement efforts, such as checkpoints targeting impaired drivers and “All-Out” days that send all its officers on patrol for a day.
At Elk & Elk, we have seen the tragic consequences of drunk driving too many times. No matter what time of year it is, we all must make smart choices every time we get behind the wheel. If you know you are going to drink, designate a driver. Or if that is not an option, call a cab. Don’t let drinking and driving ruin your life or the lives of innocent victims and their families.