Don’t take a holiday vacation from safe driving

By: Eric Czarnik | C&G Newspapers | Published December 10, 2014

 Drivers should prepare to make a plan for when they go out to celebrate during the holidays.

Drivers should prepare to make a plan for when they go out to celebrate during the holidays.

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’Tis the season for travel and merriment, but road safety experts are spreading the word that drivers need to be responsible during the holidays.

Susan Hiltz, public affairs director for AAA Michigan, said lower gas prices, which have hovered below $3 per gallon recently, could affect people’s driving decisions in the coming weeks.

“Obviously, when you’ve got more money available, people can drive farther,” she said. “The lower gas prices are, it’s definitely going to help people with their holiday spending and their holiday travel.”

In case of a white Christmas, AAA recommends that motorists sweep snow off the entire vehicle, including lights and mirrors, prior to driving in snow. It also urges drivers to move at a safe speed — even if it’s below the speed limit — and to lengthen following distance between vehicles depending on weather, visibility and traffic volume.

Drivers also need to consider the dangers that drinkers driving while intoxicated from holiday spirits may present.
Last holiday season, during three-day periods surrounding the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, Michigan saw 13 traffic fatalities each, according to Melody Kindraka, communications coordinator for the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning.

“We always know that there is more partying, more celebrating, during the holidays,” Kindraka said. “So we encourage people to make a plan for when they go out to celebrate.”

A plan, she said, may include a designated sober driver or a cab ride home.

“We certainly want to make sure that everyone gets home safely,” she said.

In Michigan, the threshold for drunken driving is a .08 blood alcohol content level for drivers age 21 or above. The threshold is .02 for younger drivers with zero tolerance for drinking alcohol outside of religious ceremonial uses. A level of .17 or above can carry additional penalties.

However, Kindraka said a motorist may be pulled over and arrested due to signs of intoxicated driving, even if the motorist’s blood alcohol level is below the legal limit.

Even if someone plans to only drink moderately, they should seek a ride home from someone who hasn’t been drinking, she said.

“Alcohol affects everyone differently,” she said. “There is no hard or fast format. That is why we always encourage people to have a plan.”

Learn more about the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning by visiting www.michigan.gov/msp or by calling (517) 241-2500. Learn more about AAA Michigan by visiting www.michigan.aaa.com.