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@$:As with most complex sets of data, there’s good news and bad news on the drunken driving front.

In Maryland, the good news is that from 2000 to 2010, the last year for which federal agencies compiled statistics, total drunken or drugged driving fatalities decreased 11.1 percent, and fatalities involving impaired drivers younger than 21 decreased by a whopping 54.2 percent. The constant drumbeat against this most selfish, avoidable and dangerous behavior is bearing fruit, especially, apparently, in our schools.

The bad news, though, is that there were still 154 deaths involving nonsober drivers older than 21, and 15 involving nonsober drivers younger than 21. Frankly, it is hard for us to see how anyone could get behind the wheel of a car knowing that they were impaired by drugs or alcohol, and drive on public streets and highways, knowing full well the possible consequences.

But many, many people do so. There were more than 18,000 arrests of nonsober drivers in Maryland in 2010.

More bad news is that nonsober driving deaths went up in 2011. “According to the Maryland State Highway Administration’s Highway Safety Office, December consistently ranks as one of the deadliest months in Maryland for drunk driving-related fatalities. In 2011, 171 people died in alcohol-related crashes in Maryland, up from 163 in 2010. Of the 171 alcohol-related traffic fatalities, 28 percent were related to a blood alcohol level of .08 or higher,” a sheriff’s office news release states.

This should not be tolerable. Even if individuals might actually be impaired enough that it prevents them from using good judgement about when it’s safe to drive, where are their family members, friends, fellow partygoers, sports fans? This is an area where people cannot be afraid to appear rude, to be afraid to appear to be a busybody, to be afraid to pluck the keys from a driver’s hand if they believe that driver is a danger to others.

And if the possibility of death or injury to yourself or others isn’t enough, “As part of an ongoing effort, the Sheriff’s Office will be conducting multiple DUI checkpoints,” the release states. “In addition, the agency is asking local businesses to help raise awareness and promote personal responsibility this holiday season by placing the following message on their marquee or in their storefronts: “Report Drunk Drivers Call 911.” In other words, you could end up in jail.

This is the season of parties. On Monday, many of us will ring in the new year with alcohol, which has gone with celebrations for millenia. If we do, we must make sure to take all the precautions to ensure that we are taking to the road sober, or not at all. Designate a sober driver. Take a taxi home if the celebrating gets out of hand. Do whatever it takes to avoid driving if you’re not sober. Don’t become another statistic.