Originally published Wednesday, December 6, 2017 at 06:00a.m.

It happens every day, more often than not - alcohol clouds a person’s judgment and it ends in tragedy.

A bunch of friends headed out to their favorite watering hole for an evening of camaraderie and fun while watching a sporting event on the bar’s big screen TV. During the course of the evening, many of them decided to suck down a few adult beverages.

A girl in the group consumed way too many alcohol beverages and when it was time for everyone to head home, she decided to drive herself even though someone volunteered to drive her.

She told her friends she was OK and that she only lived a short distance from the bar. Instead of deciding to accept a ride from a friend or call a taxi, she said, “I’m fine. I can drive myself.” Wrong answers and wrong decision.

The female who had a few too many drinks stumbled out of the bar, slipped behind the wheel of her car and drove off into the night. This was the last time her friends saw her alive.

No one really knows exactly what happened, but some theorize she either fell asleep behind the wheel or swerved to miss a donkey or cow on the roadway and careened off a cliff – killing herself. Because of her irresponsibility and error in judgement, her parents lost their only child and they now have to raise their 10-year-old granddaughter.

It’s sad, but true.

More than 200,000 men, women and children have died in the U.S. as a result of drunk or impaired driving since the terror attacks Sept. 11, 2001.

It is estimated that 40,200 motor vehicle accident deaths occurred in the U.S. during 2016 and government officials believe the numbers for 2017 will rise dramatically. To put statistics into perspective, 29,398 died in the U.S. as a result of drinking and driving since Jan. 1, 2017. That equates to about 93 deaths per day in the U.S. involving a drunk or impaired driver.

Arizona is not different from the nation. Traffic fatalities on Arizona’s local roads and state highways climbed higher for the second straight year during 2016, and driver behavior, such as driving drunk or impaired, continues to be a leading factor in motor vehicle collisions, according to the Arizona Department of Transportation.

ADOT officials say 962 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes during 2016. That’s 65 more than the year before, representing a 7.3 percent increase. The number of collisions also went up, rising 8.6 percent to 126,845.

Annually, impaired driving crashes in Arizona account for about 4 percent of all collisions and one-third of fatal collisions. Crashes involving impairment related to alcohol, illegal drugs or prescription medication killed 406 people and injured 4,089 in 2016.

People must realize drinking and driving is an epidemic and they must take charge of the situation in order to help prevent or lesson DUIs. Instead of allowing a friend to drive off impaired or drunk, they need do something about it before a friend dies needlessly from driving drunk or impaired.

In the simplest of terms, if you’re out with a friend who appears to have had too much to drink, insist they do not drive home. Just say to them, “We know you are not stupid. You know you aren’t supposed to drink and drive! You could end up killing yourself or some innocent person.” Ask for their keys to their vehicle and volunteer to drive them home or call a taxi for them.

It’s easy to say that anybody with common sense should know better than to drive impaired or drunk. But let’s face it, when drinking, common sense “goes out the window” and has less influence on all of us.

“Impaired drivers continue to take the lives of our love ones and it is time for the community to spread the message that impaired driving is unacceptable,” said Col. Frank Milstead, director of the Arizona DPS. “I call on every driver to call 911 if impaired driving is suspected. Friends and family members must make every effort to take the keys away from impaired individuals or to call 911 for help when intervening.”

As a preventive measure, many local law enforcement agencies will be conducting DUI saturation patrols and enhanced enforcement as part of the Western Arizona DUI Task Force during the holidays as an effective means of teaching and inspiring the prevention of drunk and impaired driving. The Task Force includes officers from Mohave County Sheriff’s Office, La Paz County Sheriff’s Office, Kingman Police Department, Quartzsite Police Department, Hualapai Nation Police Department, Bullhead City Police Department, Lake Havasu City Police Department, the Arizona Department of Public Safety and Arizona Department of Game and Fish.

DrinkingAndDriving.Org and Uber are partnering to make sure you never allow yourself to be the passenger of a drunk driver. If your ride home has been drinking, please do not get in the car with them. Your first Uber ride is free up to $20 using the DrinkingAndDriving.Org code DADO.

A sobering fact is if a person is convicted of drunk or impaired driving, it could cost them between $10,000 and $15,000 in legal fees, added insurance costs, court costs and court-mandated penalties for the first offense.

“The holiday season is a time for friends and family to gather together for food, fun and festivity,” Mohave County Sheriff Doug Schuster said.  “If you are going to drink, drink responsibly, and never operate a vehicle under the influence of alcohol.”