The holiday season is a happy and relaxing time, but at times it can also be stressful and busy. Between Thanksgiving and New Years Eve, millions of Americans hit the roads each winter to visit family and friends, which means increased traffic and safety concerns.

We focus on getting to our destination safely, but as US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood points out on his Fastlane blog, the trip back from an event or gathering is just as dangerous as the trip to it. There are more trips at night, and drivers may be tired or less attentive. That’s why the Sunday after Thanksgiving was designated Drive Safer Sunday.

But not everyone got the message. In Nevada County, California, crime was generally down over Thanksgiving weekend, except for in one key area: drunk driving.

The Union reports, “the county has seen an increase in DUI bookings at the jail every year for the past three years for the four days of the Thanksgiving holiday, according to jail records. DUI bookings from all local law enforcement agencies have nearly tripled in three years, with 17 this weekend compared to six in 2009, jail records show.”

One doesn’t traditionally think of Thanksgiving as a particularly alcohol-filled affair on the order of other winter holidays like New Years Eve. But we can extrapolate from this report and assume that similar trends appear throughout the country.

That’s why California is one of many states that step up their DUI checkpoints and patrols during the holidays. According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) California Executive Director Gary MacDonald, California’s use of DUI checkpoints has been one of the most effective deterrents against drunk driving.

What’s disturbing here is that Thanksgiving is a time spent with friends and family, who should know when to keep person who has been drinking from getting behind the wheel.

Holiday events, even Thanksgiving and Christmas, are celebrations of friends and family, and that celebrating can sometimes mean consuming alcohol. It’s important for hosts who serve alcohol to serve plenty of food, recognize when someone has had enough, and to monitor guests who have been drinking and are preparing to leave.

Of course, that puts the hosts in a difficult position, but anyone who serves alcohol should be prepared to take on that responsibility. Still, the simplest and best way to make sure that everyone gets home safely is to be proactive. If you plan to drink during the holidays, arrange for a designated driver or take a cab.

Sometimes the simplest advice is the soundest.

Photo Credit: Oklahoma County Sheriff

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Andy Gillin received his Bachelor’s Degree from the University of California at Berkeley and his law degree from the University of Chicago. He is the managing partner of GJEL Accident Attorneys and has written and lectured in the field of plaintiffs’ personal injury law for numerous organizations. Since 1972 he has been helping seriously injured victims throughout northern California fight & win their personal injury cases. Andy is one of the top awarded & recognized wrongful death lawyers in northern California.