JACKSON, MS - Everyone remembers that iconic moment in the Spiderman storyline when Uncle Ben, in all his sagely wisdom, looks deep into the eyes of troubled Peter Parker and utters the impactful words, "with great power comes great responsibility." The same can be said for driving responsibly: whether you're traveling to visit family for the holidays, heading out for a night on the town with friends or simply driving from place to place, the Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) reminds all motorists that impaired driving comes in many forms and is not only dangerous for you but puts others at risk as well.
Impaired driving is such a serious problem nationwide, December has been declared National Impaired Driving Prevention Month by The White House. In a proclamation from President Barack Obama, the President asks Americans to "make responsible decisions and take appropriate measures to prevent impaired driving."
Across the nation and in Mississippi, impaired driving continues to take too many lives. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), each year in the U.S., more than 10,000 people die on our roadways due to impaired driving. Drunk driving is a major contributor. The consequences of even one drink can impair your judgment and increase the risk of getting arrested for driving drunk—or worse, having a crash. Over the entire month of December 2013, a staggering 733 people lost their lives in crashes involving a drunk driver. In addition, 684 Mississippi drivers were involved in fatal impaired driving accidents in 2012.
While drunk driving is a key player in impaired driving, it is not the only thing that impairs your ability to drive a vehicle. Anything that compromises your judgment, driving skills or reaction time is a hindrance, including illegal drugs, prescription medications, cell phones and other passengers in the vehicle. Texting while driving is a serious problem on America's roads. Seventy-one percent of young people say they have sent a text while driving. As a result, thousands of people die every year in crashes related to driving.
No matter your situation or where you're headed, safety should be a top concern. MDOT offers these tips for safe driving:
- Don’t drive distracted and concentrate on the road and your surroundings. That text, call or email can wait; it’s not worth someone’s life.
- If you have to send a text or make a call, find a safe, well-lit area to pull off the roadway until you are able to focus your attention entirely on driving again.
- Buckle up. It provides your best defense against injury or death in a crash. Facts don’t lie: seat belts save lives.
- Be aware of other drivers; don’t assume that everyone else is driving as safely as you.
- Don’t speed. Slow down and be mindful of construction work zones and animals darting across the roadways.
- Make your plan in advance and know who will be driving you home if you plan to drink.