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New research: Drunk drivers likely surrounded by friends, family over holidays

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It can be one of the most difficult conversations to have

New research suggests we should be doing more to prevent family-related drinking and driving

Have you ever tried to take someone’s keys away to save them from a really bad decision?

Some new research reveals just how often drunk drivers are surrounded by family and close friends before they get behind the wheel, and the Traffic Injury Research Foundation suggests more of us need to be having tough conversations this Christmas.

The group found about half of Canadians who admit to driving when they thought they were over the legal limit reported they did their drinking in the company of family. A third were with close friends. So why are those drivers’ loved ones letting them get into a vehicle?

Andrew Murie, president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving Canada, says it’s because confronting and convincing an unwilling audience to not drink and drive is difficult. He recommends avoiding getting into that situation in the first place.

“If you know your spouse or the person you are going out with has a tendency to drink too much, make plans well in advance so you’re not in that awkward moment. Agree that you are going to take a cab home or that someone else is going to pick you up and drive you home.”

If the person ignores all attempts to get them to give up the keys still drives off, Murie encourages you to take an even more difficult step.

“They should actually call 911 on their spouse or whoever is driving. They may get charged with impaired driving but that may save their life or the lives of others. But that’s a a difficult thing to do when you know there are sever consequences that go with making that call.”

In 2012, the most recent year for which data are available, 563 Canadians were killed in a traffic crash involving a drinking driver, excluding British Columbia. In 1995 this number was 1,094 and in 2000 it was 731.