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For many the holiday season brings parties where alcohol is consumed 

Indianapolis, Dec. 27, 2018 – Along with the joy and happiness associated with the holiday season each year comes the sobering reminder from the United States Department of Transportation that over the last five years an average of 300 people died in drunk driving crashes the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day. 

More than a quarter of all crash fatalities each year in the U.S. are due to alcohol-impaired driving. In 2016, 781 people lost their lives in drunk-driving-related crashes in the month of December alone. 

Almost 29 people die each day across the country in alcohol-impaired vehicle crashes, and in 2016 that equated to one person perishing every 50 minutes. Although drinking and driving fatalities have fallen by a third in the last three decades, drunken driving crashes still claim more than 10,000 lives per year. 

“We hope more drivers will heed the public education initiatives that have been effective recently in convincing drivers to consume alcohol responsibly to avoid the hazardous and often deadly effects of drinking and driving,” said Dr. Ben Zarzaur, medical director of the Eskenazi Health Smith Level I Shock Trauma Center. “In addition to the annual uptick we see in drunk driving crashes during the holidays, we also see an unfortunate increase in a wide variety of crashes that are alcohol-related.”

Alcohol consumption reduces the function of the brain and impairs thinking, reasoning and muscle coordination … all are abilities necessary to operating a motor vehicle safely. The effects of alcohol consumption can be felt quickly and have been proven to impact a driver's  reflex activity.   

Holiday parties and New Year’s events provide a social atmosphere where large quantities of alcohol are often consumed. The Smith Level I Shock Trauma Center at Eskenazi Health, one of only three adult Level I trauma centers in the state, hopes to educate others about preventable alcohol-related injuries this holiday season.

During the holiday season and at all times, before drinking, choose a non-drinking friend as a designated driver and do not let anyone drive while impaired. If you have been drinking, instead of driving yourself arrange for a taxi or some other ride service. Also, if you’re hosting a party where alcohol will be served, make sure all guests leave with a sober driver. 

Another concern motorists need to be aware of is traffic fatalities have increased dramatically recently with the main reason believed to be individuals paying attention to their cell phones or other devices while driving. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, distracted driving claimed 3,450 lives in 2016 alone, and 391,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers in 2015.

Texting is the most common distraction. A five-second glimpse while sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road and at 55 mph it’s the equivalent of driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed. You cannot drive safely unless your full attention is on the task of operating your motor vehicle, and any distraction will dramatically increase your risk of crashing. 

Eskenazi Health treats more than 2,000 trauma patients each year and became the first verified adult Level I trauma center in the state in 1992.  A Level I trauma center is a comprehensive regional resource that is central to the trauma system. Trauma centers verified as Level I are capable of providing total care for every aspect of injury, from prevention to rehabilitation. Key elements of a Level I trauma center include 24-hour, in-house coverage by trauma surgeons and prompt availability of care in specialties such as orthopedic surgery, neurosurgery, anesthesiology, emergency medicine, radiology, internal medicine and critical care.

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Requests for interviews with a staff member or physician at Eskenazi Health may be made by calling Todd Harper at 317.402.9327, by paging 317.310.5972 or by emailing todd.harper@eskenazihealth.edu. 

CONTACT: Todd Harper
Phone: 317.880.4785
Cell: 317.402.9327
Pager: 317.310.5972 
Email: todd.harper@eskenazihealth.edu

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