Anyone new to the Baltimore area should be advised that the city’s bars and other drinking establishments get a special pass each year regarding their operating hours during the New Year. Specifically, state law will allow bars in the city to remain open literally “24-7” from New Year’s Eve through 2am on Monday, January 2. While law enforcement efforts to curb drunken driving are ongoing, we cannot stress enough the need for caution when driving in and around the city during the holiday weekend.
Quite frankly, although drunk driving has for decades been under attack nationwide by state and federal government and law enforcement agencies, the fact remains that the same people who drink still use a car to get around. Designated driving campaigns are helpful, but it’s not hard to imagine that more than a few drunken bar patrons are going to head home this weekend without a sober ride.
Traffic wrecks involving commercial trucks may not be the primary type of injury accident during the New Year’s holiday, but car-to-car collisions are likely to be the order of the day — and night. As Maryland personal injury lawyers, I and my colleagues have seen the result of alcohol-related car, truck and motorcycle accidents; none of which are particularly pretty.
Given the number of DWI- and DUI-related traffic incidents in any one year, it is a certainty that we will see our share of crashes in Baltimore, Rockville, Annapolis and the District this season as well. What we should all keep in mind is that the danger exists and should be avoided whenever possible.
At the risk of becoming preachy here, it’s important to remember that any amount of alcohol — be it beer, wine, hard liquor or even after-dinner drinks — will impair a person to some degree. In fact, according to one drunk driving study, a blood-alcohol content (BAC) of 0.05 percent (well below the legal limit and easily attainable after just two drinks depending on a person’s body weight) can increase the chances of having a car accident by reportedly 38 percent.
Add another drink to those initial two, within a given amount of time, and the odds of one being involved in a traffic accident is more than doubled again. Down a fourth glass of liquor and the odds go up by a factor of five. The point here is that it takes very little alcohol consumed in a social setting to hit the legal limit for drunken driving, not to mention the odds of causing a car or truck wreck.
Based on data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), one person is killed every 45 minutes by a drunk driver somewhere in the U.S., while one additional person is injured by an intoxicated driver every 60 seconds. Sobering statistics for a festive holiday, but something everyone should consider when celebrating the coming year.
So, please, take a moment to consider what you are about to do when you leave that party, club or restaurant after having a couple drinks. Just because you may not feel drunk doesn’t mean that you’re fit to drive a 3,000-pound vehicle. If you know someone has had too much to drink, call a cab, get them a ride, or let them sleep it off. Saving a life couldn’t be more simple. Be safe and have a happy New Year.
New Year’s Eve in Baltimore: Bars staying open past 2 a.m., BaltimoreSun.com, December 30, 2011