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DENVER (KDVR) — As of Nov. 1, there have been 168 traffic fatalities involving an impaired driver, up 14% from last year despite lower traffic volumes.

The highest number of drunk driving arrests were made in Denver, Thornton and Colorado Springs in 2019 according to the Colorado State Patrol. 

This year state and local police, the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) and Lyft are working together to keep drivers safe in the Heat Is On Holiday DUI Enforcement campaign. Eighty-one law enforcement agencies will increase DUI patrols through Dec. 14. 

CDOT and Lyft are also joining together on a new program to offer free rides over the holidays.

“We want to help people make smart decisions about getting home safely,” CDOT’s Sam Cole explains.

The focus is not only on enforcement but also public awareness. Steve Sarin tells the FOX31 Problem Solvers he knows the pain of battling alcohol addiction during the holidays. 

“I can remember being home alone just desperately not wanting to drink alcohol,” he said. Sarin has been sober for four years and now works to help others cope with holiday loneliness and  isolation due to the pandemic at the AspenRidge Recovery Center.

“It’s easy to feel just incredibly hopeless. There’s no one to reach out to, your friends, you’ve burned those bridges,” he said.

Studies show 30% of U.S. residents are likely to develop an addiction to alcohol based on genetics passed down through families.  

Former U.S. Marine Corps Captain and CEO of Adial Pharmaceuticals, Bill Stilley, is developing a genetically targeted drug to treat alcohol addiction.

“Addiction is really in our DNA and the idea you can ‘just say no’ is really not the best approach” he said.

The drug is in human trials in seven countries and is on track for approval in fewer than four years.

Stilley says the drug could help millions of people who are fighting an incredible challenge every day.

“If you have these particular genetics, our drug would help you reduce your craving for alcohol,” he said.

Sarin supports any effort to help those struggling with any form of addiction. He says it is important to take time to think about consequences before ever deciding to drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

“It’s actually cheaper to rent a helicopter to take you from the bar to your house than it is to pay for the consequences of a DUI,” he said.

All agencies and advocates working to keep drivers safe on the roads during the holiday season hope the message will resonate with every driver, including those taking their first drink. 

Sarin emphasizes, “your mistake could not only kill you but you could kill that family coming home from a Christmas holiday, you could kill a single mom who’s getting off her job waitressing and she’s the only person in the world her kid has. Step out of yourself and just for a minute, think of the ramifications.”

CDOT and the Governor’s Highway Safety Administration (GHSA) are providing 1,000 Lyft ride credit codes valued at $10 each as part of the “Gift of Lyft” promotion. Every Thursday in December at 10 a.m. 200 ride credits will launch in targeted cities and be available on a first-come, first-served basis for those who sign the Gift of Lyft Pledge.

Alcohol Anonymous is offering Zoom meetings during the pandemic. You can join anonymously.