You may not think that driving under the influence is a big problem, but it still remains the cause of nearly 30% of all fatal auto accidents in the United States. Imagine this, over 10,000 people would still being alive if they were in their right mind enough to ask for a lift from a sober friend. Even though that number is on the decline over the last thirty-five years, it's still staggering to think so many people make the poorest of choices and pay of it either with their life, or the lives of innocent bystanders.

Since the mid-1980's, when DUI related auto deaths represented almost half of all fatal collisions, organizations across the country have put massive efforts into offering alternatives to driving under the influence. Tipsy Tow is one that comes to mind here in Lawton, only because I've cut their commercials every year for the memorable past. They actually offer a free tow home if you've had to much to drink. It's pretty awesome.

The Wichita Mountains Prevention Network is already ramping up their efforts to plea with and educate the public. Their recent press release is below...

Don’t Make Alcohol the Centerpiece of Your Thanksgiving

While St. Patrick’s Day and New Year’s Eve might usually come to mind when thinking of the holiday that involves the most drinking, there’s another that is creeping up to take the lead. According to research and consulting firm Technomic's Donna Hood Crecca “Black Wednesday" (the Wednesday before Thanksgiving) has essentially morphed into the first drinking weekend of the holiday season for many Americans. This day has become especially high risk for young people and college students who may take advantage of the chaos of the holiday season to sneak a drink or two. In 2019, between Thanksgiving and Christmas, there were 107 alcohol related crashes.

In 2019, according to the Oklahoma Needs Prevention Assessment Comanche County High School Seniors reported that 3.5% of them had gotten behind the wheel of a car after drinking while 14.5% said they had ridden with someone who had been drinking, both in the past 30 days. 18% also said they had been drunk at school in the past 30 days.

Alcohol use by those that are under 21 is a major public health problem. Alcohol is the most commonly used and abused substance by young people in the United States. According to the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), nationally 1,825 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die from alcohol-related unintentional injuries, including motor vehicle crashes.

Wichita Mountains Prevention Network and local coalition partner Lawton Fort Sill Community Coalition are committed to prevention underage drinking in Comanche County.

Below are a few of their suggestions for ensuring your guests (including teens) are having the safest holiday possible:

· Avoid making alcohol the main focus of social events.

· Be sure to offer plenty of non-alcoholic choices

· Stop serving drinks at least 1 hour before the end of an event

· Recruit designated drivers ahead of time to make sure everyone has a safe ride home

· Don’t be afraid to stop a friend or loved one from getting behind the wheel

For those with under 21 guests:

· Don’t provide alcohol or a place to drink for underage minors

· Be sure to keep all alcohol out of reach or locked up

· Have a conversation with your teen about the dangers of drinking and driving

Everyone have a happy and safe Thanksgiving holiday! To learn more you can visit https://www.wmpn.org/ or contact Wichita Mountains Prevention Network at 580-355-5246. Wichita Mountains Prevention Network is funded through the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services & Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration.

Whatever your plans are this holiday season, think ahead and map out your good time. If you plan on celebrating with a pint of the good stuff, find a ride home ahead of time. Buzzed driving is still drunk driving. The tickets are crazy expensive and odds are you'll lose your license for a while even on a first offense. Designate a driver because the life you save might not only be your own.