The Holiday season brings so much joy to people in Erie and across Pennsylvania and the country. Unfortunately, far too many Christmas and New Year’s celebrations are ruined because of drunk driving arrests and accidents.

The Pennsylvania State Police announced this month that they will join with 10,000 law enforcement agencies across the country in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” program that seeks to curb drunk driving during the holidays.

The program means that police will pay extra attention to DUI enforcement over the holidays. Drivers could encounter “high-visibility patrols” and DUI checkpoints across the region and state.

DUI Crashes Increase During The Holidays

According to data from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, there were 4,985 crashes in the state from Dec. 18, 2015 – Jan. 11, 2016. Of those crashes, 685 involved drivers under the influence of alcohol or drugs. There were 18 deaths in those accidents.

In PennDOT’s Northwest Region, which includes Erie County, there were 37 crashes involving alcohol or drugs and one death during that same period.

Serious Penalties At Stake For DUI

No matter the time of year, a DUI arrest could have serious consequences. You could face time in jail, fines and a loss of driving privileges. If you injure or kill someone in an accident, the penalties will be much more severe. A conviction will mean a criminal record that could make it harder to find work.

The state police want to remind people that drunk driving crashes are completely preventable, because all you have to do is make the decision to not drive drunk.

As celebrations ramp up this weekend, remember how important it is to celebrate responsibly. Of course, you can have those extra glasses of mulled wine or good scotch that’s only broken out this time of year. However, if you are going to imbibe, use a designated driver, walk or call a taxi to get home. Keep the holidays happy and only drive sober.