I started off this year’s holiday season with an article on November 23 talking about Thanksgiving and alcohol consumption. I also discuss the potential legal harms of these traditions; having more to drink is not ‘balanced out’ by eating more to ‘absorb’  the alcohol. To avoid unwelcome DUI charges under the Christmas tree, you should familiarize yourself with last month’s article as well as the current programs in Arizona aimed at preventing impaired driving, which intensify around the holidays.

For those of you who have stood in line at the post office in mid- December, or tried to find parking at Fashion Square on Christmas Eve, you understand that stress and the holiday season go hand-in-hand. Add frequent visits from family and friends, the stress of shopping for everyone’s presents, planning parties, and after awhile you may get a little frazzled. Naturally, more alcohol is consumed during the holidays mainly to celebrate, but probably also to alleviate some of that stress. However, going overboard on the festivitiesDUI Holidays Task Force can have serious consequences. Last year, about 19,000 DUI arrests were made, about 3,500 of them between Thanksgiving and New Years’. 1 The number of yearly arrests in the state has multiplied over 15 times since 2003 due to an increase in crackdown programs.

MADD recently released a report rating the preventative counter-measures of each state and ranking them according to these measures. Arizona ranked among the highest in the nation for the implementation of DUI crackdown laws.2 This year, the state of Arizona and NHTSA, along with support from MADD, have cracked down further on the detection and arrest of DUI suspects by kicking up Arizona’s detection and testing tools. Arizona just recently spent over $1 million to purchase six new DUI processing vans, which come equipped with Breathalyzers and blood tests. They are now being used all over the state to process DUI suspects more efficiently and quickly, in addition to the 70 law enforcement agencies that will be participating in the statewide holiday DUI enforcement task force.3

Being careful over the holidays is the best bet to avoiding a DUI charge. Remember to keep track of your number of drinks and control your intake, even at the family dinner table. Don’t rely on online calculators or apps to estimate your BAC, as I have previously warned. They aren’t 100% reliable and if you aren’t sure if you are safe to drive, don’t take the risk. Being safe and planning ahead is very important. But what if your designated driver has been drinking? What are your rights as a passenger if they get pulled over? These questions and others will be answered in the next few weeks’ upcoming articles. I will also continue to report on Arizona’s current DUI enforcement measures. In the meantime, be safe and Happy Holidays!

(1) http://cronkitenewsonline.com/2011/11/arizona-plans-holiday-crackdown-on-drunk-drivers/

(2) http://www.madd.org/media-center/press-releases/2011/madd-releases-national-and.html

(3) http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/2011/11/29/20111129arizona-agencies-holiday-dui-task-force.html