“Amateur’s night,” some are inclined to call it.
But count us among those imploring Alabamians to use wise judgment and moderation as they ring in 2014. The reasons are obvious.
Drunk driving remains one of man’s most avoidable criminal mistakes. Away from the public-service ads and beer-can warning labels, the crime boils down to a simple fact: deciding to drive when you’re impaired.
Yeah, everyone’s heard the excuses. You’re tipsy, not drunk. You’ve only had a few beers. It’s only a short drive home.
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Tell that to the family of someone who died in a drunk-driving accident -- or, to your family if you’re the one jailed and convicted for the offense.
In those cases, excuses are irrelevant.
What matters is our aforementioned simple fact: Did you drive after drinking?
Statistics show that 30 years of efforts by anti-DUI advocates and law enforcement have lowered the number of alcohol-related driving fatalities in the United States. In 2011, the rate of DUI-related fatalities per 100,000 was 3.2 percent, according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. That’s a 65 percent decrease from the early 1980s.
That, however, isn’t an accurate depiction of DUI in America.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
• More than 10,000 people died in alcohol-related crashes in 2010, which is nearly one-third of all U.S. traffic-related deaths.
• Seventeen percent of the 1,210 traffic deaths of children aged 0 to 14 involved a drunk driver. Of those 211 children, more than half were in the car with the drunk driver when they died.
• Nearly 30 people in the United States die in DUI-related crashes each day. That’s one death every 48 minutes.
Imagine if that decrease in DUI fatalities hadn’t taken place over the last three decades.
Our message isn’t bathed in prohibitionist thoughts. Far from it. Here in Calhoun County, we supported Anniston and Weaver’s efforts to legalize Sunday alcohol sales earlier this year, despite calls from opponents that a seventh day of sales would lead to more drunkenness and crime.
In truth, Sunday sales isn’t a return to Sodom and Gomorrah immorality. Those city councils were right to modernize their towns’ laws.
That said, our message is bathed in our pleas for smart decisions. Tonight is New Year’s Eve; go out and have fun, if that’s your choice. But make plans to get home safely, without putting yourself and others at risk. We want to see you around well into the coming year.