Office parties, neighborhood house parties, meeting up with friends for a Holiday cocktail – now is the time of year when our roadways become even more dangerous than normal.
A recent study points out that when you combine one of the heaviest traffic Holidays with the party and social scene so prevalent this time of year, the number of serious car and motorcycle crashes increase. Memorial Day is the worst in terms of serious motor vehicle accidents, but the 6 days surrounding Christmas rank in the top 5 most dangerous Holidays to be on the road.
Another study by an auto insurance industry research group indicates that accident insurance claims jump approximately 20% in the month of December. Another study conducted by a professor at the University of Alabama analyzed 10 years of accident data in that state and discovered that a 27% increase in accidents when compared with the New Year's Eve Holiday weekend. Stress associated with this time of year is also a contributing factor to increased road rage and aggressive driving behavior. A study by the State Farm insurance company indicated that 32% of those behind the wheel were more likely to demonstrate aggressive driving habits around the Christmas Holiday.
A quick glance at the bulletin board in the break room here at the law firm of Goldberg Noone, LLC, finds invitations for all kinds of parties. It's a very hectic time of year, and stress caused by running around shopping and preparing for the Holidays is at an all-time high. If you're the type that overdoes it at your company office party and ends up dancing on the conference table, relax – there are worse things that can happen as a result of over-imbibing. The most serious is getting behind the wheel of a car after having too much to drink, and causing a serious car crash.
December has been designated National Impaired Prevention Month, designed to raise awareness about the dangers of driving while drunk, or under the influence of drugs. President Obama himself asked all Americans to “recommit to preventing tragedy before it strikes by ensuring our family members and friends stay sober, drug-free and safe on the road”.
Adding to the overcrowded roads are Holiday visitors from out of town, plus the annual influx of part-time, snowbird residents returning to their winter nests. Pair that with so many Christmas parties, and you've got a recipe for roadway disaster.
Here are some things to consider before you even accept that next invitation to a seasonal soiree:
- Have a transportation plan in place BEFORE you head out the door. You probably don't plan on getting wasted, (or maybe you do), so make sure you have a responsible person who will serve as the designated driver for the trip home. Alternatively, there is now Uber, a quick and reliable ride-sharing service – use them, and maybe even split the cost with other party-goers to save a few bucks. Think about it – a $25.00 ride beats a $10,000+ DUI arrest any day. Don't pick now to be cheap.
- If you do drink, alternate between non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages. Have a glass of water, club soda or 7-Up after the wine or cocktail.
- Eat something, for crying out loud! You say it's too hard to balance those little plates and your glass of scotch at the same time? Too bad – grab some food from the buffet and find a place to sit while you eat. Really smart people eat something before they even get to the party - booze on an empty stomach is a big Holiday party no-no.
- If you're in charge of an office party, watch the way you offer alcohol to your guests. An open bar can mean trouble – although it will help you identify someone from the company who may have a drinking problem. Consider giving two drink tickets to attendees, and make sure you have plenty of coffee, soft drinks and bottled water on hand.
- If you see that someone at your party has obviously had too much, do something about it. Ignoring it and hoping they'll get home safe is not the way to handle it. Much better to let the person know you will help make sure they get home safely, which has far fewer ramifications than finding out on tomorrow's news that they never arrived at their destination.
- Carefully consider what you drink. If you're typically a beer or wine person, do NOT pick the Holiday party to try shots of the hot new tequila everyone is talking about. And nothing makes the day after more miserable than mixing too many types of alcohol in one night. That Yuletide Punch may look delicious, but also may not be the best idea after one or two martinis.
The fact is, you can still enjoy all of the seasonal parties you'd like, provided you have a solid back-up plan in case you over indulge. If you're the type that can drink responsibly and not make a fool of yourself, great – you should be fine. No one, absolutely NO ONE, will be impressed by your stubbornness in insisting, “I'm OK to drive”.
‘Tis the season – have fun, be smart and be safe.