Holiday Sobriety Challenge

'Holiday Sobriety Challenge' Raises Awareness to Dangers of Drinking and Driving SONOMA, Calif. - The fight against drunk-driving fatalities in the United States has made tremendous strides over the last two decades, but the work has just ...

'Holiday Sobriety Challenge' Raises Awareness to Dangers of Drinking and Driving

SONOMA, Calif. - The fight against drunk-driving fatalities in the United States has made tremendous strides over the last two decades, but the work has just begun.

Drunk driving fatalities are down 60-percent in California since the U.S. Department of Transportation began tracking those numbers in 1982. Moreover, nationally, there were 7,500 fewer drunk-driving fatalities in 1999 than in 1982.

Those are great numbers to build on, but even one death per year is too many. To that end, Sears Point Raceway has partnered with the California Highway Patrol and Jim Russell Racing Drivers School to raise awareness to the dangers of drunk driving by hosting the "Holiday Sobriety Challenge," on Thursday, December 14, from 11 a.m.-2 p.m.

The Holiday Sobriety Challenge will be held in advance of "Lights On For Life Day," on Friday, December 15. The day encourages motorists nationwide to drive with their headlights on in remembrance of those who have been killed by impaired drivers

The Challenge will be held at Sears Point and feature a controlled wine and beer tasting experiment that will graphically illustrate how alcohol consumption affects driving performance, even at levels well below the legal limit.

The participants who will take part in the experiment will each be served 1 to 3 glasses of wine or beer upon arrival. They will then be taken through a series of field sobriety tests by CHP officers, including a Breathalyzer analysis, before being asked to drive around a pre-determined course at speed. They will be joined in the cars by racing instructors from the Jim Russell Racing Drivers School for safety reasons.

Program organizers anticipate that the drivers will have many problems navigating the coned course, illustrating how impairment begins at any amount of alcohol consumption. - "Drinking and driving is a pretty dangerous combination and we think this program will certainly illustrate that fact," said CHP Captain Jim McLaughlin, Napa Area Commander. "We really want to stress to people that if they plan on drinking they definitely need to have a designated driver. There is too much at risk."

Despite the encouraging statistics mentioned earlier, recent numbers suggest the importance of programs such as the "Holiday Sobriety Challenge." Fatalities resulting from drunk driving accidents in the nine Bay Area counties increased by 42-percent from 1998-1999 (40 to 57). Moreover, statewide, that number increased by 6-percent from 1998-1999 (785-835).

Such numbers stress the importance of raising awareness.

"The dangers of drinking and driving are well documented, particularly this time of year," said Steve Page, president and general manager at Sears Point. "We hope programs like this will help raise awarness and save lives."

Among the participants will be Danville resident Johannes Van Overbeek, who drives for BMW Prototype Technology Group in the American Le Mans Series, and Kevin Buckler, who owns/drives a Porsche 911 for his Racer's Group team in both the ALMS and Grand American Road Racing Association. Buckler is from Sonoma.

Other participants in the Challenge will include community leaders, college students, local business people, retirees and media personnel. This diverse group should provide a good spectrum as to the dangers of drinking and driving at any age. Napa Valley's Andretti Winery will donate the wine, and Mount St. Helena Brewery and Budweiser will supply the beer for the experiment.

In addition, the CHP will also have Bay Area high school students from Napa and Sonoma counties drive while wearing "Fatal Vision Goggles." The goggles will give the students a simulated feel of what it's like to drive while under the influence.

Festivities will kick-off at 10 a.m., when a caravan of CHP patrol cars motor over the Golden Gate Bridge and continue all the way in a single-file format to Sears Point Raceway. All cars will have their headlights on in honor of those who have been killed by impaired drivers. The day will kick-off National Drunk and Drugged Driving (3D) Prevention month, whereby a series of events will be held throughout the country that will attempt to raise awareness about the dangers of drinking and driving.

*NOTE: Statistics used for this release were provided by the California Highway Patrol and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series GENERAL