Make a plan: Tips to stay safe at New Year’s parties

366 people killed in drunk-driving accidents in NC in 2013

By Stephanie Carson
Public News Service – NC

* Video series: Remembering what went wrong, working to prevent future tragedies

RALEIGH — Nationwide, as many as 800 people die in car crashes involving a drunk driver every December. It’s why this month is one of the most dangerous times on the nation’s roads and why organizations such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving are working hard to make sure people take precautions so they don’t hurt themselves or someone else. Jan Withers is the national president of MADD.

MADD national president Jan Withers' daughter, Alisa Joy Withers, was killed by a drunk driver 23 years ago.

MADD national president Jan Withers’ daughter, Alisa Joy Withers, was killed by a drunk driver 23 years ago.

“We know too much now,” said Withers. “We all know about designated drivers. We all know the dangers, but the key is not to decide after you’ve had some alcohol in your system. We really need to make a sober decision before we ever start drinking – how we’re going to get home safely.”

Last year, 366 people died in drunk-driving accidents in North Carolina, costing the state more than $2 billion. Withers says in addition to planning for your own safe ride home, it’s important to evaluate the alcohol intake of your friends before letting them leave a holiday party, and don’t be afraid to prevent them from getting behind the wheel.

Withers knows first-hand the devastation drunk driving can cause, having lost her daughter to a drunk driver 23 years ago.

“Some days it seems like yesterday because the pain is so intense, and sometimes it seems like a lifetime ago but, indeed, the hole in my heart never goes away,” she said.

This month, local police departments and the state Highway Patrol are planning additional patrols for drunk drivers. If you witness a suspected drunk driver, you can call star-F-H-P from your cell phone. Drivers caught while driving impaired face an automatic suspension of their driving privileges for 30 days while they await trial and the possibility of losing their license for at least a year after their first conviction.

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