Question of the Week

December 30, 2003


There is a lot of talk this time of year reminding people not to drink and drive. Well, what about those who can't (or don't) drive? What about the passengers? How can you make safe choices for your own health and safety, even if you are not the one driving.

So, let's set the scene: You are at a party (or maybe just out to dinner, or maybe just getting a ride home from soccer practice). You have not been drinking any alcohol, but the person who is supposed to give you a ride has been. Whether you are 8 or 58, this can be a touchy subject to deal with--and you need to be safe. You don't really want to say anything (it could be embarrassing for you and/or your ride... especially if your ride is your parent or the parent of a friend), but you know what the consequences could be if you say nothing:

"A new study by the Ford Motor Co. and the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute suggests it may be necessary for parents to start paying more attention to who is chauffeuring their children. The research, presented today at the annual Society of Automotive Engineers meeting in Washington, says more than half of elementary school-aged children killed in alcohol-related crashes were not with a drunken teenager, but were riding in a vehicle with someone of parent age who was intoxicated....The study also indicates that these accidents occurred throughout the day, but peaked between 4 p.m. and 9 p.m. - around the time a child would be coming home from school or from an extracurricular activity...."

It's not like your coming home from a party in the middle of the night. It's a clear sunny day, and this is an adult you trust....
"Nearly two-thirds of children under 15 who died in alcohol-related crashes between 1985 and 1996 were riding with the drinking driver. More than two-thirds of the drinking drivers were old enough to be the parent of the child who was killed, and fewer than 20% of the children killed were properly restrained at the time of the crash (Quinlan 2000)."

"Alcohol-related motor vehicle crashes kill someone every 32 minutes and nonfatally injure someone every two minutes (NHTSA 2001a)."

Since you know the statistics (and don't want to be one) it is hard to argue with:
If you have a choice, don't ride with someone who has been drinking... even if it is an adult you know and trust. Call someone else for a ride (if you can); take the bus (if you can).... But what do you do if you don't have a choice?
"If you ever find yourself riding in a car with a driver who is not alcohol-free, here are five tips to make your trip safer:
1. Sit in the back seat.
2. Buckle up tight.
3. Put everything on the floor.
4. Don't bother the driver. Be quiet.
5. Tell a trusted grown-up immediately about any unsafe ride."

Questions of the Week:
Whether it is an adult or a peer, what are some ways to handle being in a situation where you are dependent on a ride from someone who has been drinking? What are some ways to avoid being in that situation in the first place? What can you plan/arrange before the situation ever arises so that you are more likely to get yourself (and maybe your friends) home safely?

Please email me with any ideas or suggestions.
Note: Due to increasing amounts of SPAM sent to this account, please include "QOW" in the subject line when sending me email.

I look forward to reading what you have to say.

[email protected]
Health Community Coordinator
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum

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