Prevent Drunk Driving at the Holidays
November 3, 2014
Tis the season. The annual holidays are coming up, and between Thanksgiving, Chanukah, 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 Christmas, New Years and the July 4th holidays. The deadliest days for pedestrians are Halloween and New Years Day, while DUI incidents tend to spike during Spring Break.
The tragedy is that drunk driving incidents are preventable - with a little bit of planning, due diligence, and assertiveness on the part of responsible people.
Alchohol 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. Some states have "social host liability" laws that allow anyone injured by an intoxicated individual who got drunk or high at their party to sue the party host/homeowner. 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 non-alcoholic 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.'
For a state-by-state breakout on social host liability laws and how they may affect you as the host of a party or gathering, click here.
- 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. In many markets, 444-4444 gets you a taxi dispatcher. Or you can use a mobile-phone app such as Hailo or Curb (formerly TaxiMagic).
- Consider a ride-sharing service. Availability varies, depending on the market, but popular options include: