For many people, December ’tis the season to be jolly. Family gatherings, office parties, neighborhood caroling, and eggnog by the fire are all activities that make the holidays special. But when these occasions involve alcohol—and they almost always do—you risk the lives of your passengers and others on the road when you drink and then try to drive home. With more thoughtful planning, you can avoid a tragedy and still enjoy the cheer of the season.
Dangers of Holiday Driving
According to the most recent data available from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, alcohol was a factor in 40 percent of all motor vehicle fatalities that occurred during the Christmas and New Year holiday period between 2001 and 2005. This number was significantly higher than for the rest of December, when alcohol played a role in only 28 percent of fatal automobile crashes. On average for an entire year, alcohol is involved in around 30 percent of fatal crashes. These crashes occur despite an increase in DUI checkpoints during the holiday season, including those in the Kansas City area. So, what can we do to prevent these holiday disasters?
Planning Ahead to Avoid Drunk Driving
Whether you're a party hopper or party host, you can take steps before the event to make sure that no one ends up driving after drinking. As the slogan goes, "buzzed driving is drunk driving." Even a couple of drinks impair your ability to make good decisions about following distance, speed, and avoiding obstacles. If you're planning on drinking at all, you should arrange for other transportation to and from the party or restaurant.
As the host of a party or family gathering, the following suggestions can ensure that you're not responsible for sending an impaired driver out on the road:
- At office parties that serve alcohol, provide free cab rides home to anyone who chooses to drink.
- At a party in your home, exchange the first drink of the evening for the partier’s car keys. Then, provide transportation home.
- A licensed teen driver may be the perfect chauffeur for partygoers who choose to drink. As a party host, you could provide non-alcoholic drinks and treats for your teen and his friends and even offer to pay them for driving guests home.
- Have a guest room or air mattress ready to go for any guest who's had too much to drink. Whether you hosted a party or just had your immediate family over for dinner, offering a drunk guest a room for the night may be the safest option for everyone.
If you're going out as a couple or with friends and planning to have a few drinks with dinner, arrange transportation to and from your destination. That way, you won’t have to worry about whether you’ve had too much to drink.
Consider the following suggestions:
- Rideshare services such as Uber and Lyft can be quicker alternatives to taxi cab companies. Get the app before you go out and request a ride well before you're ready to leave.
- Again, use a licensed teen driver as a chauffeur. You have certainly given him enough rides over the years. Consider your special night out as payback time!
- Book a New Year’s Eve party and hotel package. Many hotels in the Kansas City area offer these deals which allow you to enjoy the night’s festivities with no worries about getting home.
The bottom line is to be prepared. As you accept invitations and plan your social calendar, make sure to also plan for safe transportation.
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