Drinking & Driving Can Create Holiday Tragedies -- 21st Century Insurance Urges Safe Driving With Seasonal Campaign

This holiday season is expected to be among the busiest ever on US roads. As drivers rush to check-off last-minute shopping lists and attend holiday parties, 21st Century Insurance (NYSE:TW) is urging motorists to remember the dangers of driving under the influence and reconsider the myths about drinking and driving.

Last year was a tragic year on the nation’s roads. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported 16,694 alcohol-related fatalities in 2004 across the United States. The holiday calendar this year presents further cause for concern. Christmas Eve, Christmas, and New Year’s–all busy travel days–fall on weekends, which are typically worse for DUI accidents, injuries and deaths, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

“One way to reduce fatal traffic accidents is to not let common myths convince anyone that it’s OK to get behind the wheel of a car after having a few drinks at a holiday party,” said Joyce Prager, Assistant Vice President, Community Relations for 21st Century Insurance.

Common Alcohol Consumption Myths — and Facts that Could Save Lives:

Myth: As long as party-goers stick to beer and wine, instead of hard liquor, the intoxicating effects are minimized.

FACT: One 12 oz. can of beer, 5 oz. glass of wine or 12 oz. wine cooler contain the same amount of alcohol as 1 1/2 oz. of hard liquor.

Myth: Someone who has had too much to drink will show visible signs of intoxication.

FACT: Physical appearance can be misleading. Just one drink can impair one’s ability to drive safely, because judgment and motor skills are the first things affected by alcohol consumption.

Myth: Drinking coffee sobers up someone who has had too much to drink.

FACT: Time is the only solution to intoxication. It takes approximately one hour to oxidize each drink consumed.

In addition to knowing the facts about drunk driving, all party hosts have a responsibility to prevent friends and loved ones from becoming the next alcohol-related traffic accident statistic. Before the get-together, designate a driver or plan to use public transportation, and never allow guests to leave your party in the driver’s seat if they have been drinking.

Motorists should also watch out for drunk drivers on the roads this holiday season. To spot a drunk driver, look for these warning signs: 1) driving well below the speed limit; 2) driving outside marked lanes, weaving and zigzagging across the roadway; 3) driving with headlights off at night; and/or 4) tailgating and erratic braking.

21st has also partnered with many state Highway Patrol and Public Safety Departments to post billboards across the nation encouraging drivers to be safe this holiday season. Ads, in English and Spanish, feature lighthearted messages discussing a serious topic – safe and sober holiday driving. The ads, posted in Arizona, California, Illinois and Texas, include:

— “Drive slowly. Reindeer Crossing.” This ad features a picture of a young child dressed in a reindeer outfit to remind drivers to think about the safety of children while on the road this holiday. (Running in California and Arizona only.)

— “What two things don’t go together?” An ad asking viewers to compare a car to a row of common holiday images -including a holiday drink- to deliver the message, “Don’t drink and drive.”

“We all have a responsibility to keep our roads as safe as they can be this holiday season,” added Prager. “Let’s work together to help keep this holiday season safe, memorable and tragedy-free.”

About 21st: Good people to call

Founded in 1958, 21st Century Insurance Group is a direct-to-consumer provider of personal auto insurance. With $1.3 billion of revenue in 2004, the company insures over 1.5 million vehicles in California, Texas, Illinois and six other states. 21st provides superior policy features and 24/7 customer service at a competitive price. Customers can purchase insurance, service their policy or report a claim at 21st.com or on the phone with our licensed insurance professionals at 1-800-211-SAVE. Service is offered in English and Spanish both on the phone and on the Web, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. 21st Century Insurance Company and 21st Century Casualty Company are rated A+ by Standard & Poor’s. 21st Century Insurance Company, 21st Century Casualty Company and 21st Century Insurance Company of the Southwest are rated A+ Fitch Ratings.

21st Century Insurance Group is traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the trading symbol TW and is headquartered at 21st Century Plaza, 6301 Owensmouth Avenue, Woodland Hills, CA 91367.