Holiday Revelers Urged Not to Mix Drinking, Driving

Blame Fezziwig. In Dickens’ classic “A Christmas Carol,” he provided the blueprint for the proper Christmas party, clearing away the office furniture for music, dancing, games, food and “plenty of beer,” as the author wrote in 1843.
The festive spirit continues to soar at holiday gatherings everywhere, and it’s not unusual for the alcohol consumption to get away from someone. The danger occurs when that impaired person decides to drive home, and officials are issuing stern warnings about the necessity of being sensible amid the merriment.
“It comes down to being mature, being responsible,” San Marino Police Chief John Incontro said. “If you are attending a party at a restaurant or something, and you feel after a couple of drinks that you’ve had too much, get into a taxi or some kind of ride-sharing company and get a ride home. … If you’re hosting something at home, be aware of how much your guests are drinking. It’s important that you host the party properly.”
Statistics compiled by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration show that drunk-driving fatalities climb slightly during the holiday period of Dec. 18-31. Law enforcement admits to being more attuned to signs of impaired driving at this time of year.
“The officers pay attention to that,” Incontro said. “We make DUI arrests on a fairly regular basis. I’ve said that if someone makes a bad decision, no matter who it is, that’s their responsibility. Our responsibility is to keep everybody else safe.”
The high risk of someone being injured or killed in a drunk-driving crash has resulted in ever more extreme punishment for offenders. The Automobile Club of Southern California estimates that an adult over age 21 who is convicted of a misdemeanor DUI as a first offense will be out of pocket $15,688 when all is said and done.
Christopher Hoglin, a San Marino lawyer who handles drunk-driving cases, listed some of the costs: a base fine of $390 in California “that with L.A. County penalties and assessments added on ends up being just north of $2,000”; the expense of hiring an attorney, which can range from $3,000 to $7,000, depending on the litigator’s experience; the cost of a mandatory educational program ($600 to $800); as well as the expense of an ignition interlock device, increased car insurance and transportation costs related to a suspended driver’s license.
“There are so many great ride-share programs out there — Uber, Lyft,” Hoglin said. “It’s never been easier to avoid a DUI these days. There’s really no excuse to be drinking and driving.”
On New Year’s Eve, the Auto Club will offer its Tipsy Tow service. From 6 p.m. on Dec. 31 to 6 a.m. on Jan. 1, impaired drivers may get a free tow home up to seven miles. The service will be available by calling (800) 400-4222.
Of course, one of the challenges with alcohol consumption is that judgment can be impaired, to the point where someone believes there is no imperative to call a taxi or Uber or Tipsy Tow.
“It’s important,” Hoglin said, “to surround yourself with people who are responsible enough to make sure you don’t get behind the wheel.”

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