Celebrate the holidays responsibly

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The holiday season should be joyful, but it's unfortunately also the most dangerous time of the year on our roads. Statistics show that deaths from drinking and driving spike around the holidays, with alcohol being blamed for about 52 percent of fatal collisions on Christmas and 57 percent on New Year's, compared to a rate of 41 percent for the entire year. Thanksgiving is actually the most dangerous holiday of all. It's a time when many are tempted to overindulge, so whether pouring for yourself or others, consider a strong dose of restraint to help ensure that everyone stays safe. In 2010, more than 10,000 people in the United States died in alcohol-impaired vehicle crashes. This number does not account for the many other life-altering accidents resulting in permanent injury or severe legal and financial consequences. As an attorney practicing personal injury law, I see the sad consequences of drunk driving all too often. Drivers should be aware that you don't have to be legally intoxicated for your driving to be affected. Recent rulings have shown that being "impaired" by alcohol or another substance can be a factor in determining liability, regardless of whether the legal limit has been exceeded. Bottom line, tragedy can be avoided by simply not getting into the vehicle with a driver who's been drinking. Those serving holiday merrymakers can also have an impact by cutting off intoxicated patrons and offering to arrange transportation. South Carolina law actually states that a person or establishment licensed to sell alcohol may not serve those in an intoxicated condition. Recent tragedies in our own city have shown the harsh reality that restaurant owners may be held responsible for an accident that occurs after an intoxicated driver leaves their establishment. This is the time of year for celebration, yes, but it's a critical time to take responsibility for ourselves and others. That means not driving while under the influence–or getting in the car with someone who is. For restaurant and bar owners, that means looking out for the patrons who've had too much, making sure they don't continue to imbibe or get on the road. Let's make this holiday season one of joy and hope by taking a few simple steps to keep drunk drivers off the road.

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