Tips to Prevent Drunk Driving During the Holidays
The annual holidays are coming up, and between Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas and New Year’s Eve, Americans will be consuming more alcohol. Studies show that in December, an average of 25 people a day will die in drunk driving incidents. Longer-term data suggest that traffic fatalities do tend to spike around Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s and the July 4th holidays. The deadliest days for pedestrians are Halloween and New Year’s Day, while DUI incidents tend to spike during Spring Break.
Some people persist in drinking and driving based on myths about how the body reacts to alcohol and its ability to overcome alcohol’s effects. Scientific studies supported by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) provide important information that belies two commonly held beliefs about drinking and driving:
- Myth: You can drive as long as you aren’t slurring words or acting erratically. Fact: The skills and coordination needed for driving are compromised long before the obvious signs of intoxication are visible. In addition, the sedative effects of alcohol, combined with late-night hours, place you at much greater risk of nodding off or losing attention behind the wheel.
- Myth: Drink coffee because caffeine will sober you up. Fact: Caffeine may help with drowsiness, but it doesn’t counteract the effects of alcohol on decision-making or coordination. The body needs time to metabolize (break down) alcohol and even more time to return to normal. There are no quick cures.
Alcohol-related incidents don’t just affect traffic accident victims. Party hosts have been held legally liable for drunk driving incidents that occur after intoxicated individuals leave their homes. “Social host liability” laws, which allow anyone injured by an intoxicated individual who got drunk or high at their party to sue the party host/homeowner, vary by state. You are particularly at legal risk if the drinkers at your party are underage, or if you recklessly or negligently continue to serve alcohol to individuals who are clearly intoxicated.
For Party Hosts
- Don’t make the booze the main attraction. There are lots of ways to set up the party. The wet bar or keg doesn’t have to be the first thing people see when they walk into your soiree.
- Make sure there are plenty of nonalcoholic drinks available.
- Use small cups.
- Feed people. Food takes the edge off of intoxication. If nothing else, order pizzas.
- Avoid snacks that are too salty. Salt makes people drink more.
- Have a “key collection point.” Toward the end of the party, station yourself by the keys. This will force all your guests to check in with you before they leave.
- Take the punchbowl or other alcohol away 1-2 hours before the party ends.
- Don’t serve alcohol to people who are already visibly drunk.
- Plan to have people sleep overnight.
- Consider renting a van for the night, and providing a safe ride home for your guests yourself.
- Have a caterer run the bar, and allow people to buy their own drinks, rather than host it yourself. This provides a layer of liability insulation between you and any damage your inebriated guest may cause. You will also have a sober and professional bartender available to politely decline selling the drink and offer a soda instead.
- Consider a “dry party.”
- Agree ahead of time on who will be driving. That individual should abstain from drinking throughout the night, ideally.
- Contact the Sober Ride Program. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration maintains a nationwide database of such programs. You can find a state-by-state listing here.
- Call a taxi.
- Consider a ride-sharing service.