Rules of the Road

Road Rules: How to avoid a DUI as holiday patrols increase

Free phone app SaferRide can help impaired people get a taxi or call a friend with the touch of a button so they don’t drive drunk.
Free phone app SaferRide can help impaired people get a taxi or call a friend with the touch of a button so they don’t drive drunk. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

I know every month is national something-or-other month, but this one is legit: The president even signed a proclamation. December is National Impaired Driving Prevention Month. All year long, and especially in December, DUI prevention organizations work hard to educate people about the consequences of impaired driving.

Around here, the Washington Traffic Safety Commission goes a big step further and hires extra officers all over the state, and their entire job is to arrest impaired drivers.

But that doesn’t have to be you. It’s easier than ever to not get a DUI. There are so many options besides driving impaired: bus, taxi, ride-share apps, designated driver, your friend’s couch for the night.

I’ll give you another tool to avoid getting a DUI. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has a free app called SaferRide. And it’s designed for drunk people to use. Once you get it set up (do that before drinking) the app has three big red buttons, all labeled in large font.

I think of the top button as designed for the person who is too impaired to drive but can still handle a conversation with a stranger. It’s labeled “Get Taxi.” If you press it, you’ll get list of taxi services, with phone numbers ready to dial, in another big red button.

I like to think the middle button is for the person who is either out of cash or drunk enough to need a good friend for a ride — someone who won’t get too mad if you ruin the upholstery. It’s labeled “Call Friend.”

The bottom button is handy for someone new to the area or someone so drunk that direction and location has lost all meaning. It’s labeled, “Where Am I?” It’ll give you a map and an address, which you can in turn give to your friend (middle button) or the taxi (top button).

Even though I find a bit of humor in the app, it makes a serious, even if unintentional, point. The designers felt that the appropriate tool for an impaired person consists entirely of three big red buttons with large font. Compare that to the complexities of driving a car. Coordination and decision-making skills can deteriorate after only a couple drinks. It just doesn’t make sense to pull out the car keys when you’re in a condition to only manage three red buttons.

It’s the holiday season, and many of the opportunities to celebrate include alcoholic beverages. If you choose to participate, enjoy every bit of the holidays by planning ahead. It’s easy to not get a DUI, but if you drink and drive, the extra police on the roads will make sure that it’s easier than ever to get one, too.

Road Rules is a regular column on road laws, safe driving habits and general police practices. Doug Dahl is the Target Zero Manager for the Whatcom County Traffic Safety Task Force. Target Zero is Washington’s vision to reduce traffic fatalities and serious injuries to zero by 2030.