National Impaired Driving Month

With high DUI rates around holidays, December is national impaired driving month to encourage people to know the risks of driving under the influence. Actions have consequences for everyone involved and knowing those consequences is essential to road safety.

Bridget Johnson, Reporter

“I can handle one more.” “I haven’t had that much.” “I can still drive.”

The car door closes. Vision is impaired and it is impossible to drive safely. Some people make it home, some land in jail.

Some people die.

In 2022, around 30% of the 38,824 car deaths were caused by impaired driving according to Bankrate. One person every 45 minutes. 

According to SafeHome, driving under the influence arrests (DUI’s) accounted for around 10% of US arrests in 2019, which is larger than the rate of all violent crimes combined. 

Maize South CACOW and SAFE sponsor, Mark Bradshaw, has expanded the program to include impaired driving as it has become such a prominent issue.

“Impaired driving–driving buzzed, driving drowsy, driving distracted by a phone–can slow a person’s reaction time and endanger them along with anyone else around them,” Bradshaw said. “Motor vehicle crashes remain a leading cause of death for teens, so it’s life-saving to take steps to prevent them.”

Though not all DUI incidents lead to death, many do lead to a loss in some way, whether it be personal freedom or, in the case of Maize South freshmen Kenzie Kalb, the loss of a family relationship.

Kalb’s mother was arrested for driving under the influence after missing her daughter’s 14th birthday.

“That time she drank it was because I didn’t invite her to hang out for my birthday,” Kalb said. “She chose to get in the car because she was under the influence, and she thought she needed to come see me to confront me about not inviting her.”

For Kalb’s mother, drinking was something to turn to when things went wrong. 

“She thinks of drinking as an easy escape, a way to lose all pain,” Kalb said. “With the divorce, it made the pain for her harder to handle so she would take up drinking more.”

Graphic by Carter Smith

Her escape method led her to hit another car while under the influence. It was what pushed Kalb to the point of not inviting her mother to her birthday. 

It led to a lack of trust and a lessened relationship.

“The amount of times she had promised me she wouldn’t drink again gets broken over and over again,” Kalb said. “It makes me feel nervous thinking that she could hurt others and herself.”

Kalb’s mom caused a wreck, abandoned her dog, and received 18 months in jail. 

Nobody died.

In Kansas, DUI offenses of any kind can lead to up to a year in jail after the first offense. They can lead to license suspension, fines up to $2,500, and a court hearing. 

December is National Impaired Driving Month because there is a spike in DUI cases and deaths around the holidays, namely in cases of young adults.

Whether it be a Christmas party, New Year’s Eve celebration, or family event, young people specifically are more likely to be involved in cases of impaired driving and have to understand the consequences that can become a reality if they get into a car in that state.

“If I ever drink there will be a designated driver and someone I can trust to be safe on the road and just in general with me and others,” Kalb said. 

Plan ahead and remember that impaired driving can have huge consequences on yourself and those around you.

“It’s easy to feel pressured to give in and go along with someone else’s poor judgment,” Bradshaw said. “Instead, it’s safer to have a plan: Plan not to ride with an impaired driver. Plan which trusted adults you can call for a safe ride home rather than drive.”

Safety on the road is essential. Call an Uber. Call a family member. Make choices that will benefit your health, the safety of others, and preserve relationships with those who care for you.