From left, Melanie Bassi, her sister Jennifer Calabrese (wearing Go Jerry shirt and glasses), her sister Michelle Bassi and her parents, Denise and Gerard Bassir gather after Gerard Bassi ran in the New York City Marathon in 2005. / Family photo
Most of us have seen someone try to drive home after having too much to drink, according to a recent survey, and the holidays are among the deadliest times of the year on the roads.
A new analysis by a University of Alabama researcher finds that, at least in that state, the days just before Christmas, when people are rushing to buy presents and traveling to holiday destinations, bring an increased risk of vehicle crashes. David Brown, a professor of computer science at UA's Center for Advanced Public Safety, found that in 2012, the six-day period that includes Christmas had 18% more crashes than the Thanksgiving period and 27% more than the period around New Year's Day.
"People at this time of year are anxious to get their shopping done, and they may be frustrated, and other people can aggravate them," says Brown, who examined crash data only for Alabama. "Drugged and drunken driving could be compounding the problem."
A recent online survey for MADD found that 73% of adults 21 and older had "been at an event and seen someone try to drive home after drinking too much." The survey of 632 adults has a margin of error of +/-4 percentage points.
The year-end holidays are particularly dangerous for drunken driving, says MADD national President Jan Withers, citing data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration showing that 1,091 people were killed in DUI crashes last year from Thanksgiving through New Year's Eve.
"That's just so avoidable," Wither says.
Her key advice for those planning to imbibe during the holidays: "We want people to decide before they even leave home, before they even have their first drink, how they're going to get home with a designated, non-drinking driver," Withers says.
A wide variety of state and local services offer free or reduced rate cab rides, designated drivers and towing services for drivers who've had too much to drink. Cab-hailing app Hailo and brewer MillerCoors are joining forces to help get revelers home safely in New York, Boston and Chicago. Together, they're providing $3 million worth of cab rides through Jan. 5; participants can obtain a $10 Hailo discount code by visiting certain bars in those cities and redeem it by downloading the Hailo app.
Melanie Bassi, 36, hopes everyone who drinks during the holidays finds a safe way home.
The high school math teacher from Fairfield, Conn., knows firsthand how the actions of a drunk driver can alter a family's life.
Her parents, Denise and Gerard Bassi, were killed on Christmas Day 2007 when a drunken driver smashed into the back of their Chevy Tahoe in Hudson, Fla. Her grandmother, Linda McWilliams, was also in the vehicle and died days later from her injuries.
"I hate it (Christmas)," Melanie Bassi says. "It used to be my favorite holiday. It's not anymore. We still try to do the same Christmas Eve traditions, but it's just a reminder of how difficult it really is. I don't like the music, I don't like the decorations."
The crash that devastated her family garnered national attention in 2012 when the drunken driver, David Belniak, countersued after Bassi's family sued. Belniak, who's serving a 12-year prison sentence for three counts of DUI manslaughter and one count of DUI with serious bodily injury, got nothing in his suit. The estate of Bassi's parents and grandparents was awarded $14 million by a jury in 2012 in their civil suit.
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Read the original story: Holiday revelers urged to avoid drunken driving