How to ring in the New Year safely, without drinking and driving

December 30, 2014 | 9:04 am


Recently, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced that drunk driving fatalities in the United States last year topped 10,000 for yet another year – 10,076 in fact. Sadly, the risk of sharing the road with a drunk driver is even higher on holidays, especially around New Year’s.

In fact, New Year’s Day is the most dangerous day of the year for drunk driving on our nation’s roadways, according to Mothers Against Drunk Driving. On New Year’s Day in 2012 – after the ball dropped at midnight – 70 people were killed in drunk driving crashes in the United States, which represented more than half of all traffic fatalities that day.

The Bakersfield personal injury law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles would like to remind Kern County drivers to make this New Year’s, and every other day of the year, safe for traveling.

“This is a time of year when, unfortunately, we see too many people out there driving under the influence of alcohol,” said Matt Clark, car accident lawyer and partner at Chain | Cohn | Stiles, during an interview on The Groove 99.3 with Sheri Ortiz. “There are a lot of holiday parties. People go out. I don’t want to discourage people from going out and having a good time, and enjoying the holidays, but there’s a way to do that responsibly.”

Clark continued: “In my line of work, unfortunately, we see the worst of it often times — where there’s been a DUI accident and someone is injured. Too often somebody is killed. And then I have to console their families after they’ve lost a loved one. I just don’t want to see that happen during this holiday.”

You can listen to the full interview by clicking here.

To make sure you have a safe and fun New Year’s celebration for everyone, use these tips (courtesy of MADD):

Going out?

  • Designate a non-drinking driver to make sure you, and everyone with you, arrive home safely.
  • Save the number of a cab service in your phone before heading out, consider hiring a shuttle or limousine service to transport you and your friends to and from your event, or arrange a hotel stay for you and your friends on the evening of the event so no one drives home impaired. Ride-sharing services Lyft and Uber is partnering with Mothers Against Drunk Driving this New Year’s Eve.
  • Don’t get in a car with someone who has been drinking.

Planning a party?

  • As guests RSVP, confirm that at least one person in each group is prepared to be the sober designated driver or has a plan to get home.
  • Provide plenty of food to keep your guests from drinking on an empty stomach.
  • Offer non-alcoholic beverages for designated drivers and others who prefer not to drink alcohol.
  • Have the number of a taxi service on hand for those who need a ride. Also, be ready with some clean linen so you can turn your sofa into a bed for guests who need to sleep it off.
  • If someone who’s impaired is trying to drive, stop them.

“There are so many ways you can go out and have a good time without putting yourself, or other people on the road, at risk,” Clark said on the radio show.

DUI crashes with injury have dramatically increased in Kern County, according to local news reports. The latest state DUI Management Report released last year shows that 4,633 DUI arrests were made county-wide.

It’s the reason Clark and other personal injury attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles have been deeply involved in sponsoring and organizing the Bakersfield “Walk/Run Like MADD,” hosted by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Kern County. The second annual event will be held Saturday, Sept. 19, at The Park at River Walk.

The 5K is aimed at raising awareness about the DUI epidemic in Kern County, and to raise money to help victims of drunk driving, among other things. Last year’s walk and run raised $46,000 and brought together 700 people including DUI crash victims and families of victims.

If you are interested in taking part or sponsoring the upcoming MADD walk/run in Bakersfield, call 661-334-4948 or email jbarrientos@chainlaw.com. You can also visit the local event website at www.walklikemadd.org/bakersfield.