Although filled with merriment, the holidays also harbor many dangers, including drunk drivers. Drinking and driving is viewed as the most serious highway safety threat by Northern New England drivers and the related social disapproval is almost universal.

However, new data recently released by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that one in 10 drivers reported having driven when they thought that their alcohol level might have been close to or possibly beyond the legal limit within the past 12 months, and just over half of those, 5.5 percent of all drivers, reported having done this more than once within the past 12 months.

The AAA Foundation’s study also found that nine out of 10 Americans support requiring all drivers who have been convicted of operating under the influence more than once to use an ignition interlock, a device that won’t let their car start if they have been drinking. And, 69 percent of Americans support requiring all drivers convicted of OUI, including first-time offenders, to use such a device.

Additionally, a new analysis of National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data from 2000 to 2009 found that an average of 80 people a year are killed in alcohol-related crashes on New Year’s Day — almost two and a half times as many as on the same day of the week in other weeks around New Year’s. In 2009, 73 people were killed in alcohol-related crashes on New Year’s Day. In 2005 — the last time New Year’s Day fell on a Saturday — 98 people died in alcohol-related crashes on New Year’s Day.

Every alcohol-related fatality is preventable, and it is everyone’s responsibility to make the right decision before getting behind the wheel. That’s why AAA is asking motorists to visit to sign a quick online pledge to drive only while drug and alcohol-free this holiday season and all year long.

AAA advises that motorists can keep themselves and others safe and can avoid OUI arrests by keeping these safety tips in mind:

  • At social events, designate non-drinking drivers who can get everyone home safely.
  • Call a friend or family member for a ride home if you have been drinking.
  • Keep a cab company telephone number in your wallet so you can call for a ride home.
  • As a party host, offer a variety of non-alcoholic drink alternatives and provide a gift to guests who volunteer to be designated drivers.
  • Take the car keys away from friends and relatives who have had too much to drink.
  • Remember your best approach is to avoid being in a position to drive after consuming alcohol.