Apps designed to keep drinkers in check

Driver behavior important in holiday traffic

Drinking and being merry increases this time of year, as do the amount of vehicles on roadways.
A number of states are pushing the use of smartphone apps to help people figure out if they are too impaired to get behind the wheel.


Several states, including Kentucky, Wisconsin and Georgia, have apps with features such as a calculator to estimate blood alcohol content, a quick-dial button to contact local authorities to report a suspected impaired driver, and a ride locator based on GPS that shows available taxi and car service companies in the area.

Uber is another appthat makes it easy to request a ride at the push of a button. It is available in more than 50 cities and 20 countries.
 
If safety isn't enough motivation not to drink and drive, consider this: The U.S. Department of Transportation has kicked off the annual "Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over" winter holiday crackdown on drunken and drugged driving, along with representatives from local law enforcement, Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the Governors Highway Safety Association.
 
The crackdown campaign runs now through January 1.
 
An estimated 94.5 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more from home during the holiday season, an increase of 0.6 percent from the 94 million people who traveled last year, according to AAA. This marks the fifth consecutive year of increases and the highest travel volume recorded for the season. 
 

The 2013 holiday period is Saturday through Jan. 1.

Data from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety’s annual Traffic Safety Culture Index shows one in five licensed drivers reported having driven when they thought their alcohol level might have been close to, or possibly over, the legal limit in the past year. 

In contrast, the survey also shows 96 percent of drivers consider impaired driving to be unacceptable, with 50 percent reporting drunken drivers are a bigger problem today than three years ago.

Despite a conflict between driver perception of what is right in regard to impaired driving and actual behavior, the survey shows there is majority support for a variety of steps to prevent drunk driving.

68 percent of drivers support requiring all new cars to have built-in alcohol ignition interlocks.

78 percent of drivers support requiring ignition interlock use by all drivers convicted of DWI, including "first-time offenders."

63 percent of drivers support lowering the legal blood alcohol content limit from .08 to .05.

Though these measures against impaired driving have majority support in AAA's survey, they are not yet  a reality for everyone.

Last year, deaths in crashes involving drunken drivers increased 4.6 percent, taking 10,322 lives compared to 9,865 in 2011. The majority of those crashes involved drivers with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .15 or higher – nearly double the legal limit. During last year's holiday season alone, 830 lives were lost in drunken-driving crashes.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety administration, in the past decade, almost two of every five (41 percent) deaths that occur around the New Year's holiday and the Christmas holiday (37 percent) involved alcohol impairment, compared to 31 percent nationally in the past 10 years.