Drunken driving alert up

By Ryn Gargulinski: QCS

Quay County residents who may have noticed the red ribbons still hanging around from last month’s Red Ribbon Week can rest assured it’s not from negligence, said Quay County DWI Task Force program’s Noreen Hendrickson.

She said it’s part of the DWI program’s Tie One on Campaign in which they are working with Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD) to help combat the increased instances of drinking and driving that kick off in late November.

“Needless to say we are always concerned during the holidays,” Hendrickson said. “It’s a high drink and drive time.”

In Quay County, statistics say an average of 29 DWI arrests were made from July through September from 2002 through 2004; the average for October through December jumped to 36.

Statistics from the National Traffic Highway Safety Administration tell the story on a national level.

Thanksgiving weekend in 2003, the most recent statistics available, saw a total of 560 traffic fatalities, with more than 43 percent of them related to alcohol. Percentage-wise, Thanksgiving was surpassed by Christmas, which had 47 percent of the 513 traffic fatalities related to alcohol and New Year’s Day, with 65 percent of the 150 deaths due to drinking, according the safety administration.

The administration also reports 2003’s entire holiday stretch from Thanksgiving to New Year’s saw a total of 4,147 traffic deaths, with more than 1,500 of those, or nearly 40 percent, because of drinking. Other holidays with high percentages of impaired driving deaths include Halloween, the Fourth of July and Super Bowl Sunday, the administration said.

Not reserved for the holidays, the National Institute of Chemical Dependency points out, impaired driving is one of the nation’s most lethal problems throughout the entire year. They said overall statistics for 2003 showed more than 17,000 people died in impaired driving-related highway crashes throughout the entire country and even more — hundreds of thousands — were injured.

The institute said this means someone somewhere in the United States dies of an impaired driving-related crash every half hour.

Although New Mexico, and the rest of the nation, puts the legal Blood Alcohol Count, or BAC, below .08 percent, experts say alcohol — in any amount — may affect people differently and make driving unsafe.

A designated driver — one who has not been drinking — is one way to help avoid alcohol-related accidents, as is taking the vehicle keys from someone who has been drinking and not driving yourself if you have, cautions MADD.

If hosting a holiday party, MADD also suggests appointing a bartender who keeps an eye on how much the guests are drinking and will refuse to serve someone who is obviously drunk. They said to call a cab or find a sober driver for the intoxicated guest or to let him sleep it off, for time is the only known way to get alcohol out of the system. Contrary to some beliefs, black coffee, cold showers and exercise just don’t hack it.

MADD suggests serving a variety of non-alcoholic beverages, making sure plenty of food is available, to stop serving alcohol at least one hour before the party’s finale and to throw a bash so grand that alcohol is not the primary focus.

Penalties for Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) in New Mexico can include fines of more than $1,000 and hundreds of days in a jail cell, according to the Quay County DWI Task Force program.

Where to get help:

Quay County DWI program

Alcohol help lines:

Alcoholics Anonymous
Web site: www.alcoholics-anonymous.org

Al-Anon or ALATEEN for families and friends of alcoholics:
(8 a.m. to 6 p.m. EST Monday through Friday, in English, Spanish and French)

National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Hope Line
Web site: www.ncadd.org

Mothers Against Drunk Drivers
1-800-GET-MADD (1-800-438-6233)

Quay County counseling:

Mesa Counseling, youth and adults

Raindancers Youth Services, Inc., youth only

Teambuilders Counseling Services, youth only

Mental Health Resources and Alcoholism Services, adults only

Non-alcoholic holiday drinks

Ginger Mint

1 whole fresh lime
ginger ale
fresh mint

Squeeze fresh lime juice into a tall frosted glass. Add some ice cubes and fill with ginger ale. Stir, and top with sprigs of fresh mint. Makes one tall glass.

Frosty Mocha

1/2 gal. chocolate ice cream, softened
8 cups coffee, chilled
1 pint half & half
1 tsp. almond extract
1/8 tsp. salt
1 square semi-sweet chocolate, grated
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon

With mixer at low speed, beat ice cream and 3 cups coffee until smooth. In chilled 5-6 quart punch bowl, stir ice cream mixture, half & half, almond extract, salt and 5 cups coffee until blended. Sprinkle top with grated chocolate and cinnamon. Makes 16 8-oz. servings.

Mistletoe Punch

1 6-oz. can frozen lemonade concentrate, thawed
1 6-oz. can frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
6 cups water
1/2 cup grenadine syrup
1 quart ginger ale, chilled

Combine all the ingredients, except last two, in a punch bowl. Just before serving, add some ice cubes and gently stir in the ginger ale. Garnish with lemon slice and maraschino cherry. Makes 30 punch cup servings.

Source: MADD

Quay County DWI by the numbers
July through September 2005:

36 – total number of DWI arrests
21 – number of DWI first offenders
4 – number of DWI second offenders
3 – number of DWI third offenders
3 – number of DWI fourth offenders
1 – number of DWI fifth offenders
1 – number of DWI seventh or subsequent offenders
8 – number of above that were aggravated DWIs

.14 – average BAC (Blood Alcohol Count)
.08 – lowest BAC
.22 – highest BAC

34 – average age of offenders
17 – youngest age
71 – oldest age

31 – number of male offenders
5 – number of female offenders

9 – number of Caucasian offenders
27 – number of Hispanic offenders

2 – number of accidents
1 – number of accidents resulting in fatality

1,375 – dollar amount of highest fine paid
215 – number of days sentenced in maximum jail time

16 – number of DWI arrests in July
10 – number of DWI arrests in August
10 – number of DWI arrests in September

Source: Quay County DWI program’s first quarter report