Life moments typically associated with relaxation – such as holidays, sporting events or even the weekend – often coincide with an increase in drunken-driving accidents.
“Chances are if it’s not you, it’s going to be someone you love. If not today, then tomorrow,” said Andrea Frazier, a program manager for Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
Although these occasions can bring about a rise in Lincoln DUI citations, drunken driving remains an issue every day.
According to 2020 data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 28 people die daily in the United States due to alcohol-related crashes, amounting to approximately one person every 52 minutes.
There were 76 fatal alcohol-related crashes in Nebraska during 2020, according to data from the Nebraska Department of Transportation, representing over a third of the state’s total crash fatalities.
“We aren’t an organization saying you shouldn’t drink,” said Brianna Georgeson, director of marketing and development at the Bridge Detox Facility, a Lincoln-based drug and alcohol rehabilitation center. “There is a way to safe consumption and there are safe ways to get yourself home.”
Local organizations such as the Bridge and the Lincoln Police Department participate in campaigns and organize events to promote responsible drinking and reduce the number of drivers on the road under the influence.
“We are currently working on what we call ‘Tailgate Safe,’ as we are in the midst of football season,” Georgeson said.
The Bridge uses this educational event to talk about everything from measuring and limiting the amount of alcohol a person has in a day to getting a safe ride home after the event.
According to Georgeson, the organization plans to hold a public, alcohol-free tailgate open to the recovery community. The event will take place on Nov. 20 and will include everything a traditional tailgate would – burgers, soda, water, games – minus the alcohol.
“The whole point is to show those, especially in the recovery community, that they can tailgate safely and still enjoy themselves,” Georgeson said. “They can still watch the game and all of that, but alcohol doesn’t have to play a factor.”
However, the promotion of safe consumption and planned rides home is not a special-event-exclusive for the Bridge. According to LPD’s Public Information Officer Erin Spilker, the organization often interacts with the LPD under the Civil Protective Custody program.
The CPC allows individuals under the age of 14 to be admitted into the Bridge’s facilities under medical supervision when drug or alcohol use causes them to pose a danger to themselves or others, Georgeson said.
According to Spilker, when an individual comes in for a DUI and they don’t have a criminal violation, the LPD may turn them over to the Bridge as a safe place to stay until a responsible party can pick them up or they are sober enough to leave safely on their own.
The LPD also participates in the national DOT Driver Sober or Get Pulled Over program throughout the year. These are high-visibility traffic enforcement campaigns aimed at deterring impaired driving and occur during the holiday seasons and weekends, Spilker said.
“Holiday weekends represent some of the deadliest times of the year on America’s roadways for impaired driving,” Spilker said. During these times, the LPD deploys additional traffic patrol officers who are trained to recognize and act on behaviors traditionally tied to drunken driving.
According to Spilker, the most recent Driver Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign occurred from Aug. 20 to Sept. 6 this year, although another may take place during the Christmas or New Year’s season as the NHTSA has done previously.
“The officers in this campaign are specifically dedicated to traffic,” Spilker said. “While other officers may be pulled away on other service calls, the focus of these officers is solely on traffic and identifying potential DUIs and other safety violations.
According to LPD Traffic Enforcement Sergeant Michael Muff, the campaign had a combined total of 266 citations, warnings and arrests with 18 DUI-specific arrests. Although Lincoln sees a spike in the number of drunken drivers being issued DUIs during this campaign, the results aren’t negative to Spilker.
“If we have 18 DUIs, that could be 18 prevented accidents or 18 potentially fatal crashes,” Spilker said. “Our goal is to get those people off the street before they get themselves into a situation that could go much worse for everyone.”
According to Spilker, the LPD and other police departments across the country continue to see thousands of arrests for driving under the influence but know there are more incidents they aren’t aware of.
“Driving after drinking is a choice. Choose to do the right thing and the safe thing,” Spilker said. “Because if you drink and drive, you lose.”