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Dean Palius has been CEO of People Helping People for 22 years.

Len Wood, Staff

During the holidays traffic on our roads increases dramatically as friends and families get together to celebrate. These celebrations often include the use of alcohol and, together with the increase in traffic, there are more impaired drivers on the road.

The result is a spike in accidents involving a driver under the influence, with a predictable increase in injuries and fatalities. This is so predictable that many states release fatality estimates in advance of the holidays.

The majority of fatalities occur around Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years, and the vast majority could have been prevented by using alcohol responsibly and/or by employing a designated driver or calling for a professional driver.

Note also that not all drunk driving results in an accident. With heightened enforcement around holidays, many DUI arrests are made. Such an arrest can result in serious consequences, not the least of which is costs estimated as high as $10,000.

And while I am on the subject of driving under the influence, I want to compliment our local Youth Coalition for its significant and impactful efforts to reduce youth driving under the influence or driving with someone else who had been drinking.

In 2008, California Healthy Kids survey statistics showed that 41 percent of 11th-grade students reported such behavior. In 2016, students reported 16 percent participated in such conduct. This is a very dramatic reduction and shows the Coalition’s investment in parent and student education, messaging, policy changes and other environmental prevention methods has paid off.

But 16 percent is still too high, and as happened in years prior, the result can be a fatal accident involving our children.

As an example, on Halloween eve, our local sheriff’s deputies were called to the scene of a party. Two teen drivers were stopped, one in a driveway and one while driving. Both were cited for driving under the influence.

Those teens will lose their driving privileges but perhaps most frightening was the fact that there were five juvenile passengers in one of the cars. Without the intervention of law enforcement, this party and underage drinking could easily have resulted in a catastrophe.

There are no safe amounts of alcohol for children to drink. The law recognizes this, and for children, any amount of alcohol in the system can result in a one-year license suspension.

Moving forward this holiday season, let’s all recognize the dangers of drinking and driving. Adults must set the example and act responsibly. Adults must also impress upon their children that they do not approve of their use of alcohol and do not want them to drive with someone who has used.

Parents should be open to calls from their children for a ride or make prior arrangements for a commercial ride. Research has proven many times over, that parental disapproval of the use of drugs and alcohol by their children is the single most important factor in preventing use.

If you have any interest in obtaining more information about alcohol and drug prevention, or are interested in getting involved in the effort, please feel free to contact the Youth Coalition at mary@syvphp.org or visit the Coalition website: www.syvyouthcoalition.org.

Dean A. Palius in CEO for People Helping People in the Santa Ynez Valley.

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