Motorists urged to drive safely

By Abby Morris
Star Staff

For many, the holidays are a time for family, friends and traveling. As motorists use roadways this year, one national organization is asking them to take an important pledge, one which could save their lives.
   Mothers Against Drunk Driving is asking that citizens pledge not to drink and drive during the holiday season.
   In 2002, across the nation 255 people lost their lives in alcohol-related motor vehicle accidents during the Thanksgiving holiday, according to information from MADD. "It's tragic that on a holiday dedicated to thankfulness and family, a person can make the selfish and criminal decision to drink and drive," said Nancy Denning, state executive director of MADD Tennessee. "Deaths due to impaired driving are the easiest to prevent. Don't drink and drive."
   Last year, across the nation, 4,019 people died in traffic accidents during the period known as "the holidays" which lasts from Thanksgiving to New Year's Day. Of those deaths, 38.8 percent, or 1,561, were the result of alcohol-related crashes.
   "The most important aspect of any holiday centering on family is making sure your family is safe," Denning said. "We're asking all Tennesseans not to drink and drive."
   During the entire year of 2002, 17,380 people lost their lives in alcohol-related motor vehicle crashes in the United States, representing 41 percent of all people killed in traffic accidents.
   "Just think how easily we could reduce the number of families celebrating Thanksgiving without a loved one this year," said Linda Rothwell, MADD Tennessee state chair. "We could stop almost half of all traffic fatalities if we all pledged not to drink and drive."
   In addition to reminding motorists of the dangers of drinking and driving this holiday season, MADD Tennessee members are also encouraging motorists to remember to buckle their safety belts. "A seat belt can be your greatest defense against a drunk driver," Denning said. "In fact, most people killed in alcohol-related crashes do not wear seat belts, and wearing seat belts cuts the risk of serious injury in half."