Getting Friends Home Safely: Avoiding Holiday Accidents

ny holiday accidents are preventable. During the holidays, there are more crashes than any other time, partly because some equate celebrating with alcohol. Sure, there’s eggnog at holiday parties, maybe there’s a little rum in that drink, and your friend only had one. That’s not much alcohol, right? Wrong. There’s still enough in that one drink to impair your friend’s driving.

Here’s a tip: Don’t let your friend drive themselves home. You may not like the outcome. What can you do?

For starters, consider announcing you are the designated driver for the evening, or designate someone else to be. At the start of the evening, before the drinking begins, gather up the keys and hold on to them. Don’t give them back until the next day.

If you are not going to be the designated driver of the bunch, make sure you have the number of a good cab company. Call another friend or even a towing company. Do not let your friends who have been drinking get into a car and drive away. In the same vein, do not let them walk away alone. Alcohol impairs judgment and may, quite simply, cause them to lose their way or walk out in front of traffic.

Another way to solve the problem of getting home after a night of holiday partying would be to stay where your party is. Find out beforehand if there might be a spare room to crash in, just in case someone in your party cannot make it home safely. There may even be an inexpensive hotel room very close by.

The importance of staying safe during the holiday season is obvious when you look at the statistics on holiday accidents. During the holidays in 2002, between Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve, alcohol related crashes killed 1,561 people. That’s a significant percent of people killed in all crashes. Don’t want your friend to become a statistic? Then be firm and make sure they don’t drive themselves home or wander home alone.

According to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (NCIPC), Among drivers involved in fatal crashes, those with BAC levels of 0.08% or higher were nine times more likely to have a prior conviction for driving while impaired (DWI) than were drivers who had not consumed alcohol (NHTSA 2004a).

If you’re throwing a party, make sure you have snacks and non-alcoholic drinks available. Make arrangements for your guests to get home or to stay with you, if possible. If you’re not comfortable with your friends leaving, don’t let them. They may be upset at the time; but the next day you will still be their friend and they will appreciate you even more for taking such responsible care of them.

See a timeline of alcohol's effects and why holiday accidents are so prevalent