Regardless of what holiday you celebrate, planning for a safe ride home after holiday festivities and merriment is a gift everyone can give themselves and their loved ones this year.
Consider what the holiday season would look like if you got a DUI for driving while impaired by alcohol or other substance. Charges for DUIs range from misdemeanors to felony offenses, and penalties can include a revoked driver’s license, fines and jail time. It’s also extremely expensive – a first-time offense can cost upwards of $10,000 in fines and legal fees. Now imagine you got into a car accident or were responsible for taking a life because of your actions to drink and drive. If any of these things occurred, more than just your holidays would be ruined, to say nothing of the impact on the family and friends of victims.
According to the latest figures available, more than 37,000 people died in traffic crashes in the U.S. in 2017. It’s estimated that almost 11,000 of those people were killed in drunk driving crashes involving a driver with a blood alcohol level of .08 or greater. That is an alcohol-impaired traffic fatality every 50 minutes. Every year, DUI arrests are at their highest between Thanksgiving and the end of New Year’s weekend. Fortunately, there are many ways to celebrate the holidays safely and avoid drinking and driving.
Celebrating the Holidays Safely
Drunk driving puts everyone on the road at risk. Follow these tips to safely celebrate during the holidays (and all year long):
- If you plan on celebrating the holidays by drinking alcohol, don’t wait until after you start drinking to figure out how you’ll get home. Plan your sober ride home ahead of time.
- Whether it’s a sober friend, ride-sharing service or cab, make sure you know your options and set a backup plan in case your plans change.
- Can’t find a safe way home? Check with friends or family to see if you can stay the night.
- If someone you know has been drinking, don’t let that person get behind the wheel. Take their keys and help them arrange a sober ride home.
- If you see an impaired driver on the road, contact local law enforcement. Your actions could help save someone’s life.
If Hosting a Party:
- Encourage guests to pick a designated driver.
- Limit your own alcohol intake as a responsible host/hostess.
- Make sure you have everything you need for your party. Mid-party beer runs or a quick dash out for forgotten ice cream could turn into disaster.
- Offer non-alcoholic beverages and always serve food.
- Don’t pressure guests to drink.
- If guests drink too much or seem too tired to drive home, call a cab or ride-hailing service.
- Have perks for your designated drivers such as extra goodies, coffee or a donut shop gift card.
Follow these tips for holiday parties and you’ll ensure that everyone has a fun, worry-free and safe holiday season.
Have You Downloaded Your Ride-Sharing App?
It’s likely you’ve heard of the ride-sharing services Uber and Lyft. These services allow people to arrange a ride in a privately owned vehicle through a smartphone app. In addition to taxis or public transportation such as a bus, metro or train, ride-sharing services offer another safe transportation option to prevent people from drinking and driving. Both of these apps are available in your smartphone’s app store.
Another option you may not be aware of is the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) SaferRide mobile app. This app helps identify your location and calls a taxi or friend to pick you up. The app has a very simple interface, with only three large buttons on its home screen: “Get Taxi,” “Call Friend,” and “Where Am I?”. This makes it easy for people who have been drinking to call a cab, call a pre-programmed number or pinpoint their location. SaferRide is available on Google Play for Android devices and on Apple’s iTunes store for iOS devices.
The LHSFNA’s Drunk Driving pamphlet and A Drink Is a Drink Is a Drink and Recipe for Disaster posters can help get out the message about drunk driving. Order these and other publications by visiting www.lhsfna.org and clicking on Publications.
[Jamie Becker is the LHSFNA’s Director of Health Promotion.]