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FOR all this season's joys and festivities, a little too much holiday cheer can prove lethal behind the wheel of a car.

For too many families each year, Christmas or New Year's Eve becomes tragic instead of joyous after a loved one is killed or seriously injured by a driver under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

It doesn't need to be that way.

With a little bit of forethought, consideration and responsibility, alcohol-related traffic deaths are entirely preventable.

The evidence is in the numbers. Ever since groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving made a concerted effort to raise awareness and push for more stringent laws against drunk driving, the number of accidents and fatalities linked to alcohol has steadily decreased.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the number of alcohol-related traffic deaths has fallen by 50 percent in the last 20 years. In California, the rates have similarly decreased, from 1.65 deaths per 100 million miles driven in 1982 to .5 last year.

In total, thousands of lives have been saved, and thousands of families have been spared the worst sort of grief imaginable.

Unfortunately, the recent numbers are disturbing. Over the past five years, alcohol-related traffic fatalities have nearly doubled in the San Fernando Valley and the rest of L.A. They are also rising statewide.

The time to reverse this ugly trend is now.

Local law enforcement is doing its part this holiday season, with the Los Angeles Police Department and the California Highway Patrol stepping up patrols and increasing the number of sobriety checkpoints.

But police are too few and far between to bear the load themselves. Ultimately, we must each do our own part.

It's pretty simple, actually:

If you've had too much to drink, don't drive. If your friend's had too much to drink, take away the car keys. And if you want to be the life of the party, volunteer your services as a designated driver.

The life you might save will be the most precious holiday gift you'll ever give.
COPYRIGHT 2002 Daily News
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Copyright 2002, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Dec 22, 2002

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