Every year, we wake up on New Year’s Day to terrible stories of loss and devastation caused by drinking and driving. Sadly, the stories we hear only make up a small percentage of how many lives are altered forever or lost to driving while under the influence during this festive time of year.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, an average of 300 people died in the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day every year between 2012 and 2016. In the month of December as a whole, the average number of lives lost due to drunk driving averaged just under 4,000 — about 28 percent of all lives lost due to car accidents during December in each of those years.
It’s a preventable tragedy, but avoiding becoming a DUI statistic on New Year’s Eve or anytime during the holidays is not as simple as choosing not to get behind the wheel after drinking. There are a number of different choices you can make that will help you and the people you care about to stay safe this year and stick to your resolve to avoid drinking and driving.
Here are 10 ways you can avoid becoming a statistic on New Year’s Eve:
- Utilize free ride share services and public transportation.
Cities, large and small, try to circumvent the risks of DUI by subsidizing ride share services, cabs, and public transportation. All you have to do is download the app, know the code, save the number in your phone, or do whatever it is you need to do in advance to make sure you have a safe and sober ride home on New Year’s Eve.
Do a quick Google search for your area, post the question on local police department Facebook pages, and make sure you get a few different options so you have a backup plan and a backup for your backup. Give yourself as many safeguards as possible to ensure that it is easy for you to make the right decision later.
- Start your New Year’s Eve vigilance now.
Though buses offer free rides and many car share services provide discounted rates on New Year’s Eve itself, these same services are not offered throughout the holiday season despite the increased rate of parties and gatherings that involve heavy use of alcohol and other substances. In other words, the risk of drunk driving accidents is high all month, yet the focus is mostly on New Year’s Eve specifically, putting many at risk during the rest of the month.
It is common for people to say to themselves, “I’ll have just one,” or “I’m fine to drink now since I won’t be driving for a couple hours,” when they go to an office Christmas party or a small community event. Unfortunately, there are a number of unexpected factors that can play a role in throwing those good intentions out the window. For example:
- You might want to leave earlier than you originally thought if the people you are with want to go, an emergency arises, or the party dies out early.
- Other substances may be floating around at the party, and if you use them while drinking, it can amplify the effects of alcohol.
- Holiday parties can be socially awkward as they are often the only time in a year that some groups get together socially. For those who drink to manage social anxiety, one drink can often quickly lead to another despite good intentions.
- There is often a vibe that it is okay to overindulge and “let loose” just because it is the holiday season.
If your intent is to stay safe on New Year’s Eve, get yourself in the healthy mindset now and carry it with you throughout the holiday season. For every event you attend this year, follow these same principles of choosing safety first.
- Don’t drink or use other substances.
Sounds like a no-brainer, right? If you have struggled with drinking and driving in the past, then it stands to reason that the best way to avoid drinking and driving is to avoid drinking entirely.
Unfortunately, if you are living with an alcohol use disorder, this is a lot easier said than done. In fact, it is likely not the first time that you’ve sworn off alcohol, promised yourself or your loved one that you would moderate your drinking, or otherwise attempted to mitigate the harm caused by alcohol use.
If you believe you are unable to manage your use of alcohol and stay safe this holiday season, it may be time to consider your options in alcohol treatment. Alcohol use disorders occur on a spectrum, from the person who binge drinks regularly, drinking more than two to three drinks in an two-hour period, to the person who drinks all day every day. There is no one set of circumstances that defines alcohol abuse, but for every unique individual, there are services that right for you and speak to where you are with alcohol today.
- Stick close to a sober friend.
If you can’t or don’t want to stay sober, have someone with you who you know will avoid any substance use. This person should be willing to not only avoid alcohol and potentially drive you where you need to go but also to intercede should you try to get behind the wheel or leave with someone who is intoxicated.
- Set reminders on your phone.
If you want help remembering to stop drinking by a certain point in the night, to drink no more than one drink every 60 to 90 minutes, or to head home at a definitive time, set reminders on your phone or watch to help you stick to your goals.
- Choose celebrations that are close to home.
You can remove the whole dilemma about drinking and driving by choosing to stick close to home or by hosting the party yourself.
Be careful, however, if you walk home. Walking home while under the influence can be just as dangerous as driving, especially on a night when many drivers may have alcohol in their systems. Stick to well-lit areas, wear safety colors or lights if needed, and have a sober friend with you to help out just in case.
- Opt out.
This is another simple suggestion. If you don’t have any support and you are concerned about your ability to avoid drinking and driving, don’t go.
There are lots of great ways to celebrate the holidays, connect with people you care about, and enjoy yourself without being at risk of becoming a DUI statistic.
- Ask for help.
Reminders don’t work for you? No sober friends in sight? No way you’ll be able to make it through the night, and not a chance that you’ll stay home? Reach out and ask for help.
Ask a family member to give you a call at 10 p.m. just to check in. Make sure someone you trust who is local can see your location on their phone and have a pre-determined system set up so they will know to call a cab for you if you don’t respond to texts. Ask a friend to come pick you up from the party at a specific time and tell them to refuse to take “no” for an answer. Ask for the help you need to get home safely.
- Pay attention to your driver’s sobriety level.
If you have a sober friend on standby to drive you and everyone you are with so you can avoid getting behind the wheel while intoxicated, then you are off to a great start. But if your friend is not always sober or if they intend to “only drink at the beginning of the night” then make sure you pay attention to how much they are drinking.
It is just as dangerous for you to get in the car with a driver who is unable to manage the vehicle optimally for any reason as it is for you to drive while buzzed or under the influence of any substance. If you are concerned that your driver is not as sober as they should be, do not hesitate to get an Uber or find another means of transportation home.
- Take advantage of our DUI classes.
If you have a DUI and you are concerned that the holidays will cause you to violate the judge’s orders, you have the option to get help in advance. We offer DUI classes that will support you through your DUI process, help you to navigate your legal obligations, and show you what changes you can make to protect yourself in the future.
Drunk driving accidents are a preventable problem, and it starts with you. Remember that you not only put yourself at risk when you get behind the wheel while under the influence, but you also risk the safety of your passengers and everyone else on the road. Making choices now to protect yourself later — especially if you intend to drink any amount and may not be able to think clearly when it’s necessary — can be lifesaving.