Credit: Courtesy

With Thanksgiving fast upon us and Christmas lurking cheerily in the wings, the Santa Barbara Police Department is encouraging everyone to celebrate safely and designate a sober driver this holiday season. Those who don’t, the department warned, can expect to encounter an increased number of officers patrolling the streets for drivers suspected of driving under the influence in the leadup to Christmas and New Year’s.

“We want everyone to enjoy the holidays and be safe,” Motor Officer Collin Powell said in the SBPD statement released Wednesday. “If you plan to go out and celebrate, make sure you plan ahead and find a safe, sober ride home because driving impaired should never be an option.”

With the COVID curtain that hung over the last two holiday seasons all but lifted, tens of millions of people will be traveling around the country to visit friends and family during the holidays. This Thanksgiving alone, 54.6 million people are expected to travel 50 miles or more from home, which would make this the third busiest year for Thanksgiving travel since 2000, according to AAA.

Drunk driving is a daily problem across the country — 29 people die in motor vehicle crashes involving an alcohol-impaired driver each day in the U.S., according to the CDC — but it’s more prevalent during the holidays. Since 2016, more than 4,400 people have been killed in drunk-driving-related crashes across the country in the months of December alone, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

While alcohol is the primary influence in these fatalities, the SBPD in its statement notes that “DUI doesn’t just mean booze.” “Prescription medications, over-the-counter drugs, and marijuana can also impair,” the department stated, “especially in combination with alcohol and other drugs.”

Funding for this driver safety program is provided by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

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