Author: Attorney Elizabeth M. Allen
With the Holidays come family gatherings, office parties, socializing with friends and Year End football game get-togethers. These are occasions we look forward to all year. But there can be a dark side to the holiday cheer: drunk driving and the injuries and deaths that result.
Every December we see a spike in highway fatalities in the United States during the Christmas and New Year Holiday periods. In 2005, there were 193 deaths involving at least one impaired driver during the three day New Year weekend. Another 160 people died over the three day Christmas weekend in 2006. These grim figures do not reflect the other horrific consequences of such accidents: a child’s loss of a parent, a wife’s loss of her wage earning husband, and the severe injuries and lost income innocent passengers may suffer.
It’s up to each and every one of us to do our part to prevent these tragedies. Remember, everyone has a role to play in keeping drunk drivers off the road.
The driver. No one is more responsible for preventing drunk driving than you, the driver. No excuses! If you drink, you can’t drive.
- Line up a sober driver to take you home if you anticipate drinking alcohol during an evening out.
- Call a cab or set up a ride with a program such as Safe Rides or Sober Rides, which provide free rides home to intoxicated citizens.
- Watch what you drink and eat. Never drink too much too quickly. Put soft drinks or coffee into your mix of beverages. Don’t drink on an empty stomach. Make sure you eat food at the same time you’re drinking.
- Stay overnight in a nearby hotel or motel, if you’re going to attend a Christmas party and you know you want to have more than one or two drinks during the evening. That way you can walk to your hotel room after the party’s over.
The host. Most of us enjoy hosting holiday parties for friends and family. However, with the decision to serve alcoholic beverages comes the responsibility to make certain our guests don’t leave the party so impaired that they are unable to drive safely.
- Serve a variety of food, coffee, and non-alcoholic beverages.
- Keep an eye on your guests as you circulate during the party. If you observe someone take more than one or two alcoholic drinks or you see someone who shows signs of intoxication, be pro-active. Determine whether the person expects to drive himself home. If so, intervene and ensure that a sober driver takes him.
- Provide a list of phone numbers for local cab companies and post it for your guests.
- Take the keys away and call a cab. Or call a family member or friend to give your guest a sober ride. If you can’t take care of the situation on your own, ask his friends (or yours) to help.
The family. Many of you know family members who drink too much at holiday parties. You recognize your husband, boyfriend, sister, or mother risks his or her life and the lives of others when he or she gets behind the wheel in an intoxicated state. Take a stand and be firm. No drinking and driving
- Offer to take your family member to the party and pick him up afterwards.
- Arrange a ride with a responsible friend or a cab.
- If you are a parent worried that your teenager or young adult may drink and drive, try to establish an understanding or agreement on the subject. Explain that you are available 24/7 to pick your child up, wherever he is, if he or his friends believe he is too intoxicated to drive.
Friends. We hear it repeated again and again, but it’s true! Friends don’t let friends drive drunk. Do what it takes to keep an intoxicated friend from getting behind the wheel. Take his keys away. Move his car to a place where he can’t find it. Drive him home yourself. Call a cab, if you can’t drive him home either because you don’t have a car or because you’ve had too much to drink yourself.
You. Yes, you. You have a role to play in keeping drunk drivers off the roads. Watch out for them as you travel the highways and roads over the holidays. If you see driver conduct that suggests a motorist is driving while intoxicated, call the police and report the suspicious behavior immediately. Give location, vehicle make and model, and license plate number whenever possible.
For your own safety, think twice before you travel the roads and highways late at night during the Holidays. There are more intoxicated drivers on the road in the late evening and early morning hours. And be selfish! Don’t get into a car or onto a motorcycle operated by someone you know has had too much to drink!