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The dangerous side of holiday cheer

December has arrived, which means in West Virginia that people are preparing for holiday get-togethers with friends and family. We hope that everyone who will attend holiday parties and consume alcohol will do so responsibly and help to ensure that all of us can get home safely to enjoy this special time of year.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that on average, 29 people die in the U.S. in alcohol-impaired automobile crashes. That works out to about one person every 50 minutes.

What is truly astounding about that depressing figure is that it's significantly lower today than in the past -- it has dropped by approximately a third over the past 30 years.

No matter the progress, the hard reality is that drunken drivers still claim more than 10,000 lives each year.

When you understand what alcohol does to the human brain, it's easier to understand the dangers of drinking and driving. Simply put, alcohol reduces your brain's ability to think and to reason and to coordinate muscle activity. As it turns out, those are the very qualities and functions you need most from your brain when you drive.

The common way to measure alcohol level in a person is to look at blood alcohol concentration (BAC). When BAC hits 0.08 percent, it is illegal to drive in West Virginia. It's also the level at which, experts say, "crash risk increases exponentially."

At that level, concentration is diminished, the ability to process information is reduced, perception is impaired, the ability to see and hear clearly is diminished and reactions are slowed, among other things.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a Huntington crash involving an impaired driver, you can speak with an attorney experienced in personal injury litigation about your legal options.

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