During last year's holiday season, which actually counts the entire month of December, there were 2,462 alcohol-related traffic crashes in Texas, resulting in 842 serious injuries and 78 fatalities. Once again, the Texas Department of Public Transportation is encouraging Texans to plan ahead and offer non-alcoholic drinks at their parties.
Deidrea Samuels is with TxDOT's Houston office.
"There are a lot of parties that go on during the holidays, and so we just want people to know we want you to have fun, but we want you to plan ahead. And one of the easiest ways that you can do that is to have a person that is appointed to stay sober. It's just one person, and if you don't want to be that person — no one wants to be that person — guess what? You can call a cab. You can catch a bus, or you have someone that's not actually at the party with you go and pick you up."
TxDOT's Holiday P.A.S.S. campaign — P.A.S.S. stands for Person Appointed to Stay Sober — includes suggestions for non-alcoholic drinks from award-winning mixologist Rob Pate, who owns Peche and Cherry Street restaurants in Austin.
"Everybody always associates the Designated Driver with that person that's sitting in a bar, you know, drinking a soda. You know, so we wanted to take care of the designated driver by offering them special holiday drinks that they can also have and enjoy the time out with their friends. They are just not drinking anything with alcohol in it. They were crafted by a bar owner in Austin, and basically what we want people to know is they can have fun; they can enjoy the holidays, and you know, Sprite and cherries and lime juice make for a special holiday drink as well."
Samuels says the time to plan for a safe New Year's Eve is ahead of the party, not at the party.
"Exactly, because by that time, your judgment has been impaired. You know, after one or two drinks, you know, you're not thinking clearly. So it's very important to plan ahead. Certainly, don't wait until you're at the party to start thinking about how you're going to get home."
Law enforcement officers throughout the state are working thousands of additional hours to crack down on drunk driving, including implementing no-refusal programs in many jurisdictions. The Holiday P.A.S.S. program — and those non-alcoholic drink recipes — are explained on TxDOT's Facebook page.