Tis the season for holiday gatherings, baking cookies, decorating trees, and enjoying the company of loved ones, but it’s also a time when many break out the alcohol to celebrate and there’s the possibility of alcohol falling into the hands of underage kids.

According to the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office, in 2018 there were 556 fatal crashes with 74 of those involving drivers under the age of 21 and 50 of those involved drivers with a blood alcohol content of .08 or higher. In 2018 there were 2,493 impaired driving arrests.

OHSO says that there have been 557 deadly crashes already this year across Oklahoma and fatalities are up this year compared to last year; 127 of those were caused by impaired driving.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has some tips on how to celebrate safely and responsibly.

· Offer a variety of nonalcoholic drinks—water, juices, sparkling sodas. Nonalcoholic drinks help counteract the dehydrating effects of alcohol. Also, the other fluids may slow the rate of alcohol absorption into the body and reduce the peak alcohol concentration in the blood. They also provide your guests with alternatives to alcohol.

· Provide a variety of healthy foods and snacks. Food can slow the absorption of alcohol and reduce the peak level of alcohol in the body by about one-third. Food can also minimize stomach irritation and gastrointestinal distress the following day.

· Help your guests get home safely—use designated drivers and taxis. Anyone getting behind the wheel of a car should not have ingested any alcohol.

· If you are a parent, understand the underage drinking laws—and set a good example.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has some tips if you do happen to celebrate too much…

· Designate a sober driver.

· Plan to use public transportation or a ride-hailing service.

· If you have a friend who is about to drive impaired, take away their keys and help them make arrangements to get home safely — it will be the greatest gift you ever give them.

To learn more you can visit https://www.wmpn.org/ or contact Wichita Mountains Prevention Network at 580-355-5246. Wichita Mountains Prevention Network is funded through the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services & Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration.

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