The devastating consequences of drunk driving are always a danger at this time of year. Last year, according to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, more than 1,500 people were killed in alcohol- related crashes between Thanksgiving and New Years Eve, 57 of those on New Year's Eve alone. And there are signs that this holiday season could turn out to be one of the worst in a long time.
For one mother, Peggy Lang, the holiday season always marks the moment that she says destroyed her life, when two years ago just after midnight, her 19-year-old son David was killed in a car crash.
“I can say that the suffering hasn't diminished since that sickening Christmas morning,” says Lang. “There's a big hole in my heart and it's missing and I can't pick up from there.”
Her son was the passenger. The driver, his stepbrother, who survived the accident, was drunk.
Holiday celebrations mixed with drunk driving are claiming more lives again this year. In Texas, which leads the nation in alcohol related road deaths, seven people have been killed in the past 10 days. These tragedies continue a disturbing trend.
After two decades of decline, the number of alcohol related traffic deaths is rising to more than 17,000 last year - that's one death every 30 minutes, and one person is injured every two minutes. Why the increase? Federal safety officials say the nation's sense of outrage at drunken driving has waned despite a steady drumbeat of public service campaigns.
Dr. Jeffrey Michael of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration believes public fatigue is one factor, “I think it's difficult to keep a single public health issue on the front burner for years in a row,” he says.
To rekindle the outrage, federal highway safety officials have prodded local authorities this holiday to step up sobriety check points and saturation patrols. In Texas on New Year’s Eve some private towing companies will help impaired drivers get home.
Peggy Lang thinks the public must be constantly reminded of the pain drunk driving can cause. She just started a New York City chapter of M.A.D.D - Mother's Against Drunk Driving - to raise awareness, and channel her grief. “The only way I can pick up is by doing something to help save somebody else from not having to go through this horrific journey,” she says.
It’s a journey that unfortunately for some begins this time of year.