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Be Prepared this Holiday Season: Don’t Drive Impaired!

The holidays are a time to celebrate, but too much celebrating can get you into trouble. Choosing to drive impaired often occurs during the holidays when celebrations, parties and time off are abundant. However, driving under the influence of alcohol or medications can be costly to both your wallet and to your career. In the 2015 Fleet and Marine Corps Health Risk Assessment Annual Report, three percent of respondents (including active duty and reserve Sailors and Marines) indicated they had driven after having too much to drink, while 18 percent said they engaged in heavy drinking.1 While three percent may not seem like a high number, no one should be driving when they’ve had too much to drink given the risks of accident, injury, and death. In addition, some prescription medications cause similar effects to that of consuming alcohol, such as delayed response, so driving should be avoided when on these medications.

The effects of alcohol or drug use on your career can be devastating to you, your family, and your unit. Consequences can include a revoked driver’s license, fines, legal charges such as disorderly conduct, public intoxication, driving under the influence (DUI), or driving while intoxicated (DWI), jail time, and even separation/discharge from military service. Be prepared this holiday season and plan ahead to get home safely. The tips below can help you make smart choices while you are celebrating the holiday season.

Steps to Prevent Impaired Driving

  1. Make a plan before heading out. If you plan on drinking, make arrangements ahead of time to have a non-drinking designated driver (don’t forget, buzzed driving is drunk driving!), have the number of a taxi already available for your use (program the number into your cell phone prior to starting drinking so you always have it available), or stay overnight. If you will be drinking, hand your keys over at the beginning of the night to a friend so you will not be tempted to make the poor decision to drive after drinking.

  2. Check for side effects and interactions of your medications. If you take medications, either over-the-counter or prescription, check with your pharmacist or health care provider about side effects and interactions. You can also get more information here on how medication and alcohol can interact. Medication and alcohol can react with one another even if not taken together and can often intensify effects such as drowsiness or dizziness.

  3. Offer non-alcoholic options. If you host a party or have friends over, make sure non-alcoholic beverages are available as well as food. Do not pressure people to drink or engage in risky alcohol consumption such as drinking games. If someone has been drinking and is planning on driving, take away their keys and help them find an alternative mode of transportation.

  4. Consume alcohol responsibly. Alternate alcoholic beverages with non-alcoholic beverages such as water. Do not gulp beverages, but instead sip slowly. Making responsible choices while consuming alcohol or taking medications is important not only during the holidays but also year-round to keep yourself, your family, and your fellow Sailors and Marines safe.

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If you or someone you know needs help:

  • Talk to your Drug and Alcohol Program Advisor (DAPA) or Navy Drug and Alcohol Counselor
  • Speak to your Commanding Officer (CO), Executive Officer (XO), Officer-In Charge (OIC), Command Master Chief (CMDCM)/Chief of the Boat (COB) or Chaplain
  • Contact your local Fleet and Family Support Counselor or reach out to DoD Medical Personnel

1. Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center. EpiData Center Department. Fleet and Marine Corps Health Risk Assessment, 02 January- December 31, 2015. http://www.med.navy.mil/sites/nmcphc/Documents/health-promotion-wellness/general-tools-and-programs/2015-HRA-Report-TR-214-2016.pdf. Prepared May 2016.

2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Fact Sheets- Excessive Alcohol Use and Risks to Men’s Health. http://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/mens-health.htm. Updated 7 March 2016.