Rockville, MD – The holiday season is a time to celebrate, and for many Americans, that means popping the bubbly and proposing a toast. Around 41% of American drinkers say beer is their beverage of choice, while 31% said they preferred wine and 23% said they’d go for hard liquor. But if you choose to consume an alcoholic drink this holiday, you’ll want to think twice about getting behind the wheel. Fortunately, the state of Maryland is taking steps to keep you off the road if you’ve had one too many.
According to the Association for Safe International Road Travel, over 37,000 U.S. residents die in road crashes every year. While not all of those fatal accidents can be attributed to alcohol consumption, drunk driving is a big problem in the United States. This year Maryland police departments are cracking down on drunk driving with holiday sobriety checkpoints, and the results have raised some eyebrows.
In Rockville, the Montgomery County Police Alcohol Holiday Task Force puts up sobriety checkpoints from mid-November through January 7. In the first three weeks of this year, 112 drivers were stopped and arrested for DUIs. Although the average drunk driver drives under the influence around 80 times before their first arrest, these officers aren’t playing around. The task force also tickets hosts of underage drinking parties and checks up on local businesses to ensure no one is selling alcohol to underage customers.
Not only is the holiday season one of the worst for drunk driving accidents, but Montgomery County police and local residents have reason to be invested in this cause. Noah Leotta, a Montgomery County police officer, was killed in 2015 when he was hit (while working on the alcohol task force, no less) by a repeat drunk driving offender. And a law known as Alex and Calvin’s Law was passed after two Thomas Wootton High School graduates were killed in a car crash following an underage party that same year. As a result, Maryland state law requires drunk driving offenders to install ignition interlock devices on their vehicles and adults who host parties where alcohol is served to minors can actually face jail time and a $5,000 fine.
Of course, police intervention can punish intoxicated drivers for operating a vehicle, but what else can be done to keep it from happening in the first place? For one thing, self-driving cars could be coming to Maryland in the near future. Federal researchers are currently experimenting with autonomous vehicles in Aberdeen, although no Maryland test site has been chosen as yet for the vehicles. Researchers say that these vehicles could save 37,000 lives every year just by eliminating human errors, including drunk driving, distracted driving, or even just plain sleepiness.
But until that happens, there’s always ride-hailing. Lyft has partnered up with the Washington Regional Alcohol Program to provide a SoberRide service in Montgomery County and throughout the D.C. area through January 1. Just download the app and use the weekly promo codes (which can be found on SoberRide.com) to get a $15 credit towards your fare home.
In a statement, Kurt Gregory Erickson, WRAP’s President, said, “Last December, nearly a thousand Greater Washington residents did the right thing and availed themselves of this lifesaving service rather than possibly driving home impaired.”
Hopefully, the promise of a free ride and the threat of a DUI charge on their record will be enough to keep drunk drivers off Maryland area roads this holiday.