This New Year's Eve, the American Automobile Association urges drivers to start 2014 off right by planning ahead for a safe ride home.
"The New Year's Eve holiday is a time when people tend to overindulge," said Jim Lardear, a spokesman for AAA Mid-Atlantic. "Despite all the warnings about drinking and driving, during last year's holiday season alone, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says 830 lives were lost in drunk driving crashes."
During 2012, the NHTSA reports that deaths in crashes involving drunk drivers increased 4.6 percent, taking 10,322 lives, up from 9,865 in 2011. The majority of those crashes involved drivers with a blood alcohol concentration of .15 or higher, nearly double the legal limit.
According to Delaware's Office of Highway Safety, so far this year, 98 people have lost their lives on the state's roadways, compared to 116 people killed this time last year. Of those deaths, 33 were alcohol related in 2013, while 2012 saw 55 alcohol-related traffic deaths.
According to the latest data from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety's annual Traffic Safety Culture Index, while 96 percent of drivers consider impaired driving to be unacceptable, 20 percent of all licensed drivers who drink at least occasionally reported having driven when they thought their alcohol level might have been close to, or possible over, the legal limit in the past year.
"Tragically, these results show that the attitudes and behaviors of drinking and driving just don't add up," Lardear said.
For this year's celebration, Lardear said drivers have just one rule to follow: If you're planning on drinking, don't drive.
AAA offers the following tips for the New Year's Eve responsible host:
> Offer food and non-alcoholic beverages.
> Make sure all of your guests have a designated driver.
> Keep the numbers of local cab companies handy.
> Take the keys away from anyone who is thinking of driving while impaired. Help them make other arrangements to get to where they are going safely.
For the responsible partygoer, AAA offers the following tips:
> Plan a safe way home before the party begins. Designate a sober driver and leave your car keys at home.
> If you plan to drink, don't drive.
> If you've been drinking, use a taxi, call a sober friend or family member or use public transportation to get home safely.
> Buckle up. It's your best defense against impaired drivers. Throughout 2013 in Delaware, nearly 25 percent of vehicle occupant fatalities were individuals not wearing their seat belts.
AAA Mid-Atlantic works year round to educate motorists about driving practices that will help keep them safe and reduce traffic-related crashes and the injuries that can result in such crashes. Motorists can obtain excellent resources such as impaired driving facts and expert advice by visiting www.PreventDUI.AAA.com. Additionally, AAA urges online visitors to do their part to save lives by taking the pledge to drive sober.