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Boaters and Drivers, Stay Alcohol-Free This Memorial Day Weekend

SATURDAY, May 29, 2021 (HealthDay News) -- It's the first holiday since the pandemic began where Americans can mingle without masks if they are fully vaccinated, so celebrations are in order. But folks still need to avoid alcohol if they're driving or boating over the Memorial Day weekend.

"This Memorial Day weekend, as we honor our nation's heroes who sacrificed their lives to protect ours, please remember to keep yourselves and those around you safe. Choose a non-drinking driver to get you to and from your destination and never use alcohol while on the water," said Bob Garguilo, executive director of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) New England.

During the 2019 Memorial Day weekend, drunk driving claimed 172 lives nationwide, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. That year, 37% of traffic deaths during Memorial Day weekend were alcohol-related.

But the danger isn't limited to driving. Alcohol is the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating crashes, accounting for nearly one-quarter of such deaths, according to a 2019 U.S. Coast Guard report.

"If you're getting out of the house or traveling over the weekend, do so in a way that ensures you and everyone around you gets home in one piece," Garguilo urged in a MADD news release. "That means planning ahead for a safe and sober ride home if your plans include alcohol and remembering that alcohol use while on or near water does not mix."

People are just as impaired at a 0.03 blood alcohol concentration (BAC) on the water as a 0.08 BAC on land, according to research by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators.

That's due to factors that increase impairment on the water, such as the motion of the water, the weather, the sun and cold water temperatures.

MADD National President Alex Otte was severely injured when she was struck by a drunk boater at age 13. She noted that, "prior to 1980, people drove with a beer in their cupholder. Today, you would never watch someone get in a car with alcohol in their hand and drive away. But that happens every single day on our nation's waterways. This is a culture shift that has yet to happen, but it must, if we're going to save more lives."

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on impaired driving.

SOURCE: MADD Connecticut, news release, May 25, 2021

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