BUTTE, Mont. – With the holiday season, comes an increase in spending, giving and drinking.
A local Butte non-profit is pointing to new statistics that show at least 50 percent of Americans say alcohol plays a role in their family’s holiday gatherings.
It’s a scary statistic when you consider the record 103 million people who traveled by vehicle during the holiday season last year.
On average, 40 percent of alcohol-related highway deaths occur between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, according to a government study.
The group is called Butte Cares. It’s a substance abuse prevention program. The director said for many people the holidays can be far from joyous and in many cases, she blames alcohol.
One drink and you’re okay but any more than that, you should stay away from driving. That’s according to Butte Cares Substance Abuse Prevention Program director Linda Lowney.
She said with the holiday season comes a spike in alcohol abuse and with that comes DUI’s.
“DUI’s go up 33 percent so not only are people using alcohol, they’re still thinking it’s OK to drive,” Lowney said.
Part of it can be a strain on your pocket book.
Butte Cares officials said one of the biggest culprits can be the financial burden of buying gifts for your family and friends.
Alcohol advertising can also be a culprit. Lowney said it’s more prevalent during the holidays in TV commercials and bars and it engages people to drink beyond their limits.
“People want to be a part of life. They want to be enjoying things but they also need to realize their limitations,” Lowney said.
For Butte resident Alice Gabriel, it’s a worrisome time.
“I would be devastated if someone in my family got hurt from drinking and driving,” Gabriel said.
NBC Montana asked Lowney if Montana is a problem area.
“Statistically Montana ranks very low in its alcohol use ordinances and laws,” Lowney said. “So we have high drinking rates as well as Mothers Against Drunk Driving–they rate us low.”
According to recent statistics put out by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Montana ranks last out of the 50 states in DUI laws.
According to Lowney it’s because Montana has a lack of alcohol protective factors like DUI checkpoints.
Lowney said plan sober parties to avoid this behavior or simply don’t drink.
“Let’s not harass them and make them feel like they’re not part of the party–that drinking is the only essential piece,” Lowney said.
Lastly, If you decide to drink be sure to have a designated driver.
If you find yourself getting stressed this holiday season, Lowney recommends being active and avoiding binge eating.
These activities will promote healthy behavior rather than excessive drinking.