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Reently, news broke that a grand jury in Somerset, New Jersey indicted former Melrose Place star Amy Locane for aggravated manslaughter and assault by auto, which carry a potential prison sentence of 20 years. The indictments are related to Locane’s involvement in a fatal vehicle accident while under the influence of alcohol. The accident resulted in one fatality and one critically injured.

Serious indictments—like this one—that are brought against celebrities put DUI accidents and deaths into the spotlight a few times every year. Unfortunately, DUI-related accidents and deaths are much more frequent and deserve more constant public attention.

According to 2009 data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2009 alone, there were 10, 839 fatalities in crashes that involved an impaired driver with a BAC over .08, a figure that translate to one alcohol-impaired fatality every 48 minutes. This staggering number accounts for a total of 32% of the total motor vehicle traffic fatalities in the country. While the data from NHTSA reflects a decrease in alcohol-related fatalities as compared to 2008, it also highlights a continued need to seriously address impaired driving and take steps to prevent these avoidable accidents from occurring.

The case against Locane offers an important opportunity to reflect on the steps that everyone can take to help reduce DUI-related accidents and fatalities.

  • When you head out with friends to parties that involve drinking, make sure you designate a driver.
  • Monitor your own intake of alcohol– if you are too impaired to drive, call a taxi or get a ride from someone else. Give your keys to someone else.
  • Monitor how much others are drinking and take car keys away from anyone who is impaired and shouldn’t be driving.
  • If you are playing host, offer alcohol-free beverages and help monitor your guests’ alcohol consumption.

Even those who haven’t been at locations where alcohol is served can help:

  • When you are driving, be alert to any cars that seem to be driving erratically.
  • Maintain a larger than normal distance between your car and the erratic car.
  • Follow all traffic laws and use your seatbelts
  • Report drunk drivers to local authorities.

Be safe out there and always think before you drink it drive….

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