Our View: Help prevent drunk driving this holiday

December 04, 2006 11:00 pm

There's little doubt that meth is a significant problem in our county, causing crime and personal injury. But there's another social ill that can prove just as dangerous and deadly to innocents: Alcohol.

Statistically speaking, police arrest an intoxicated person almost every night in Del Norte County, according to the California Highway Patrol. And once every nine days someone in the county either dies or is injured in a collision in which alcohol played a part. All too often, the people killed or hurt are not drunk drivers but innocents in other vehicles who were at the wrong place at the wrong time.

We're not prohibitionists and believe the majority of people drink responsibly. And it is those individuals who will have to help make our roads safer, either by keeping the intoxicated from getting behind the wheel or by reporting to police those drivers that fit the profile of someone who is DUI. This is especially the case during the holidays, when Christmas and New Year's parties can increase the number of people who drive tipsy.

Asking a friend not to drive home when you know they're drunk is being the best kind of friend there is. It's best to drive them home yourself, get them a cab, let them stay the night or put them up in a hotel room. Of course, someone who is drunk can be difficult to handle, so the prudent way to address the problem is to prevent them from becoming intoxicated in the first place. Alcohol should be measured out in drinks you're serving, Mothers Against Drunk Driving suggests. Company parties shouldn't make the bar the focus of attention. And you may want to stop serving alcohol sometime before the party is over.

Spotting a drunk on the highway is easy enough: weaving across the centerline, drifting, erratic breaking, slow response to traffic signals. But we should report such driving to police so the driver can be removed from the road. The California Office of Traffic Safety recommends calling 911, giving the vehicle's exact location and a complete description of it, including make, model, color and license plate.

The life you save by keeping the keys away from someone intoxicated or getting him off the road may be a family member's, a friend's or an innocent who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Who knows – perhaps the same actions taken by another person will keep a drunk driver off the road so he doesn't injure or kill you.