For the last dozen years, Catherine’s Cause has held a remembrance ceremony in Westminster, honoring those who have been lost in drunken driving crashes by lighting a candle for them. On Thursday, the “I Will Remember You” ceremony named 49 drivers in all, including 16 who died between October 2017 and October 2018.
It’s a poignant event that should serve as a sobering reminder to not get behind the wheel while intoxicated.
During the month of December, drinking tends to take an uptick with an increase in family get-togethers, office Christmas parties and the like, and even those who may consider themselves moderate drinkers tend to imbibe a bit more. December can also evoke plenty of emotions from individuals who are dealing with loss, trauma or other stresses and may find themselves turning to alcohol to cope.
In turn, this all leads to an increase in the number of intoxicated drivers on the road, with hundreds of lives being lost. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were 781 people killed in drunken driving-related crashes in December 2016.
Even deadlier is during the week between Christmas and New Year’s. The U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism states that 40 percent of traffic-related deaths during Christmas and the New Year's Eve holidays involve drunken drivers — a 12 percent increase over the rest of the month of December. From 2012 to 2016, an average of 300 people died in drunken driving crashes during that last week of the year, according to NHTSA.
Now, we’re not suggesting that everyone must completely refrain from alcohol this holiday season. Rather, it’s a reminder that if you’re going to indulge in a few cups of holiday cheer, that you do so responsibly, and make a plan to get yourself home safely without putting others on the road at risk.
Depending on where you’ll be, getting an Uber, a Lyft or a taxi might not be a problem. But if you’re celebrating in Carroll County, you know those rides can be difficult to come by. That means you’ll need to make plans in advance, either designating a sober driver or making sure you have a place to stay the night.
Most years, law enforcement increases patrols for intoxicated drivers to curb the behavior during weekends in December. Last year, Maryland State Police troopers from every barrack, including Westminster, conducted additional patrols not just for impaired driving, but also aggressive driving, distracted driving, speeding and other violations that lead to more crashes on the road. While such initiatives have not been announced just yet, trust us, they’re coming. And there are few things that will ruin your holiday more than a DUI.
If that isn’t enough to make you think twice about getting behind the wheel after a few drinks, perhaps the words of Phil Mullikin, one of the founders of Catherine’s Cause, will. The organization was founded in 2007 by Mullikin and his wife, Cynthia, after losing their daughter, Catherine, at age 20, after her vehicle was struck by a drunken driver in November 1998. Two decades later, the Mullikins still live with the grief of losing their young daughter.
“I don’t know how to tell you to get through it. There’s no secret, there’s no special way,” Phil Mullikin said Thursday night. “For us it’s been 20 years and every once in a while, when I’m alone and there’s nobody around, I break down and cry for my daughter. I miss her.”
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Please, don’t drive drunk.