alcohol and keys

Speak Up & Save Lives On New Year’s



New Year’s has a bad reputation as the most dangerous holiday to be on the road. While more total fatalities actually occur during other holiday periods, an average of 42% of New Year’s traffic fatalities are alcohol related - a higher percentage than any other holiday period.

Ultimately, it’s each of our responsibility to decide not to drink and drive, and to encourage others to do the same. But it’s not always easy to speak up! Here are some tips to help you think through how you can help friends and family members make safe driving decisions this holiday season.

Make a Plan

Often, planning ahead can prevent drunk driving from ever becoming an issue at your social event.

  • Designate a driver before the drinking starts.
  • If you’re not sure everyone will be willing to stick to the plan, consider having everyone give up their car keys in advance.
  • Choose to take a cab or public transit in advance. Some cities offer free public transit on New Year’s Eve.
  • Discuss where everyone in your group will be staying that night.
  • Look into safe ride programs in your area.

But sometimes situations arise that you hadn’t anticipated. Maybe you meet up with people who didn’t arrive with you and don’t have a safe way to get home, or maybe someone wants to change the plan at the last minute.

In these situations, we know we’re supposed to speak up - but that can be hard to do!

You’re Not the Only One Worried

When somebody who seems drunk is getting ready to head out to their car and leave an event, and nobody else seems concerned, it’s tough to bring yourself to say anything about it.

While it might seem like you’re the only one thinking about it, others in your group are probably experiencing a similar dilemma. Think about how you’d feel if one of them spoke up in that moment. Relieved? Grateful? Others in the group will probably feel the same way, and may even voice their support and help make alternative suggestions.

What Will You Say?

Sometimes a simple “Hey, let me call you a cab” or offering them a couch to sleep on is enough to deter them. But other times, the person might continue to insist on driving. They might say things like…

  • I’m fine now.
  • It’s just a short drive.
  • I never get pulled over.
  • I won’t hurt anyone.
  • I’ve done it before and it’s always fine.
  • You don’t know me, you can’t tell if I’m drunk or not.

You can

  • Suggest a more appealing alternative. Offer to wait for the cab with them, or suggest an activity you can do if they stay at your house. If others are also staying, point that out!
  • Have a private conversation. If you’re close friends with the person, you may have better success taking them aside and speaking with them privately. If you don’t know them well, try discreetly asking their friends to talk to them.
  • Be as non-confrontational as you can. Embarrassing the person will probably make them less willing to back down.
  • Remind them that you care. You don’t want them to get in trouble with the law, or hurt themselves or others. Is the convenience of driving home really worth the possible consequences?
  • Enlist a friend. If you’re not having success convincing them by yourself, grab a friend of yours or theirs to help you - it’ll be harder for them to say no to more than one person
  • Remind them of how their decisions impact you or others. Many states have social host laws, which make a host who furnishes alcohol to guests liable for some or all guests’ actions. Be familiar with your state’s laws and know whether you or your host could be held responsible for damage or injury caused by a drunk driver leaving your gathering.

But if they won’t listen, what will you do next?

Last Resorts

Many resources suggest taking or hiding the person’s keys, and in particular suggest doing so while they’re distracted so they’ll think they just misplaced them. But if the person is already trying to leave, this may not be possible.

This Mothers Against Drunk Driving brochure suggests letting the air out of their tires, or even moving the car yourself if you have not been drinking. But letting the air completely out of the tires could damage the wheels, making you liable for the damage, and moving the car without the owner’s permission could be considered unauthorized use of a motor vehicle.

Instead, we suggest being ready to report the drunk driver to your local police department. You can let them know that you don’t want to have to call the police, but that you will if they get behind the wheel.

Be prepared to follow through. Whether you call 911, your local police department, or a state hotline, you’ll need to provide...

  • A complete description of the vehicle. Include the make, model, and color of the car, and the license plate number if you have it available.
  • The location of the vehicle, including a street name and a cross street.
  • The vehicle’s direction of travel.

Don’t take any action that could compromise your own safety, like trying to detain the driver or stop the vehicle, and never get into a vehicle with a drunk driver.

Have a safe and happy New Year!

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