By the time this column is published, most of the Christmas shopping will be done and a new year will be upon us.
This is the time of year when we are all festive and in a happy mood. Or is it? I know what you are all thinking – the traffic jams, the delayed flights, the kids in the back seat for nine hours. Picturing these things in your mind can change your holiday mood faster than Santa can eat a cookie.
If there is one thing I want for each of you in this New Year, it is a safe drive as you travel these East Texas roads. Before you even think about dipping that cup in the Christmas eggnog or popping that cork on the Champagne, I urge you to take a moment to think about the drive to and from your holiday destinations.
I find it disturbing that according to the Texas Peace Officer’s Crash Report in 2016, Texas recorded 35 fatalities on the roadways during the 78-hour Christmas holiday recording period. On New Year’s for the same time period, there were a whopping 42.
If those holiday numbers aren’t bad enough, just in the nine-county Lufkin district in 2016 there were 24 fatalities that were alcohol related. They were either driving under the influence of alcohol or they were involved in a crash with someone who was. For each of those 24 people, there will be an empty chair at this year’s holiday dinner table. If you take the time now to plan a safe trip, that effort might keep you out of the statistics that I look at next year.
The message might get old, but it has never been more important. If you plan on drinking during your holiday celebrations, please designate a driver who is not drinking to get you home safely. If you don’t drink but still enjoy the celebrating, be extra careful on the roadways. Spotting a drunk driver isn’t always that easy.
A person who is still below the blood alcohol limit (.08 in Texas) many times will still drive himself, because he still feels sober. We call that buzzed driving. Buzzed driving is still drunk driving, because the reflexes and reaction times are diminished. Even though many people would swear they aren’t drunk after two or three, they probably are. Watch out for those drivers who exhibit even small signs of impairment.
Christmas and New Year are great holidays, and we should fill them with happy memories and new beginnings. I urge you to put planning for a safe drive at the top of your New Year’s resolution list. May 2018 hold for you many safe hours of driving on our East Texas roadways. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from TxDOT’s Lufkin District.
Rhonda Oaks is the Public Information Officer for the nine-county Lufkin District of the Texas Department of Transportation. A Lufkin native, she is a graduate of Hudson High School and Angelina College. She has a background in print journalism and worked for many years as a newspaper reporter and a freelance writer. She has received eight Associated Press awards. Her articles have been published in many publications over the past 25 years.