Aside from family visiting, scrambling to find the perfect gifts and plenty of comfort food, what else goes hand in hand with the holidays? Parties, of course!
And although it’s wonderful to spend time with friends and family at seasonal gatherings, a night of merry-making can quickly turn tragic if you or a loved one chooses to drink and drive.
During 2017, 714 people were arrested or cited in Marion County for driving under the influence (DUI), according to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. Drivers with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent or higher are considered alcohol-impaired by law, and there tend to be more of them around the holidays, according to local law enforcement.
“Accidents do go up due to holiday parties, family traveling in and out of town, [and] family gatherings,” says Gary Miller, corporal with the Marion County Sheriff’s Office. In Cpl. Miller’s 19 years of service, he has made more than 1,100 DUI arrests.
Cpl. Miller says MCSO and the Ocala Police Department are aware that festivities during this season make drinking and driving more likely and actively combat those dangers by placing more officers on patrol who are specifically watching for signs of impaired driving.
“We look for different signs besides just weaving. If we see a driver following too closely, driving without headlights or speeding, we may think someone is impaired.”
Of course, the only safe way to drink at a holiday party is to ensure whoever drives you home hasn’t been drinking at all.
“Besides taxis, Lyft and Uber, I always tell people to have a designated driver. I’d like to emphasize that that is not the person who drinks the least—it’s someone who doesn’t drink at all. I’ve arrested many ‘DDs’,” Cpl. Miller says. “Having a plan before you go out is so important. Make a plan so you don’t have to drive home. You can use another service or have a DD.”
Did you catch your designated driver mid-champagne toast? Here’s who to call:
Uber: Download this free app, set up a payment method before your night out, and you’ll always have access to a safe ride home.
Lyft: All the perks of Uber, plus having both apps ensures a driver from one or the other will be available.
Local taxi companies: Apps aren’t your thing? Google “Ocala FL taxi service,” and jot down a few phone numbers in advance.