Don't drink and drive this Christmas

In this photo taken Thursday, Dec. 20, 2012, an Agave Margarita and gin Martini made by mixologist Jacques Bezuidenhout sit on a bar in the Starlight Room of the Sir Francis Drake Hotel in San Francisco. The first rule of drinking on a diet is, don't. Surely you saw the recent study that found that Americans were getting almost as many empty calories from alcohol as from soft drinks. The second rule of drinking on a diet is that since you probably will ignore Rule No. 1, find a way to enjoy alcohol without letting it swamp your healthy intentions. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

With more than 102 million people expected to travel by automobile this holiday season — the most on record since AAA began tracking holiday travel in 2001 — the auto organization is reminding motorists to celebrate safely and take steps ahead of time to avoid driving while impaired.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day is one of the deadliest times on the road when it comes to impaired driving. 

A 2017 study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that among drivers who reported consuming alcohol, 20.7 percent reported driving in the past year when they thought they had consumed too much to drive safely.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Tow to Go program, a partnership that began in 1998 between AAA and Anheuser-Busch to prevent impaired drivers from getting behind the wheel. AAA officials say the program has taken over 25,000 impaired drivers off the roadways in the past two decades.

“The Tow to Go program is a smart option to promote the use of designated drivers and help reduce impaired driving,” said Adam Warrington, vice president, corporate social responsibility at Anheuser-Busch. “We are proud to partner with AAA and their roadside assistance drivers to make our roadways safer during the holidays.”

The Tow to Go program will be available this holiday season through 6 a.m on Jan. 2 in Tennessee by calling 855-286-9246.

The program provides a confidential local ride to a safe location within 10 miles. The AAA tow truck will take the vehicle and the driver home, and is free to AAA members and non-members.

The Johnson City Police Department and other local law enforcement agencies will have additional officers on the street during this holiday period looking for impaired drivers. The JCPD’s enforcement efforts have resulted in 27 DUI arrests during the past five long Christmas holiday weekends.

If you are hosting a holiday party that includes alcohol, be sure to offer your guests plenty of water and other non-alcoholic beverages, as well as snacks and appetizers. 

AAA officials say a good host is watchful of how much alcohol a guest has consumed, and knows when to take the keys away from a guest who has had too much to drink.

Law enforcement officials also remind drivers and their passengers to buckle up before hitting the highways.

Federal highway safety officials say unbuckled men account for more than half of Americans killed each year. Tennessee has embarked on an aggressive public awareness campaign to reverse those numbers.

The “Click It or Ticket” campaign involves checkpoints, patrols and public service announcements to help enforce seat belt laws.