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Topics > Healthy Outlook > Thinking Ahead Helps Avoid Tragedy

Thinking Ahead Helps Avoid Tragedy

Published by Contra Costa Times
Posted on Sun, Dec. 26, 2004

By Haven Fearn

THERE ARE MORE DRUNKEN drivers out on the streets during the holidays than at any other time of the year. Their numbers are usually thinned by law enforcement and, more tragically, by car crashes, but the best way to get drunken drivers off the street is by never letting them get behind the wheel in the first place.

This is why the National Drunk and Drugged Driving Prevention Month (3D Month) is scheduled around the holidays, to highlight the problem and to get the whole community working together to reduce the number of drunken drivers on our streets. Here are some ways you can help get this done.

If you're hosting a party:

  • Encourage your guests to designate a driver ahead of time.
  • Reward the designated drivers at the party. Give them small gifts of appreciation such as movie tickets. Make sure everyone recognizes that designated drivers are giving up alcohol so others in the party can get home safely.
  • Collect the guests' car keys upon their arrival. Know the condition of your guests before you return their keys to them at the end of the party. Make sure those who will be driving are able to drive safely.
  • If necessary, be prepared to arrange for a drive home for your guests or to invite them to spend the night.
  • Serve a variety of food and nonalcoholic beverages during the party. Stop serving alcohol at least 90 minutes before the party is over, and bring out dessert, coffee and other nonalcoholic beverages. (A tiny caveat about coffee: Many people think it sobers you up, but it doesn't. The liver can remove only an ounce of alcohol from the body every hour, and coffee cannot speed up this process. When a drunk drinks coffee, it usually results in a drunk who is awake but clearly still in no condition to drive.)
If you're going out to drink:

  • Designate a driver ahead of time.
  • Take a cab or public transportation.
  • If you drove yourself or don't have a designated driver, make provisions to spend the night.
  • If you're in a bar or a restaurant, ask your server about arranging for a ride home.

One creative holiday gift-giving idea is for family members to give each other "Guaranteed Ride Home Vouchers," where rides to or from gatherings where alcohol is going to be consumed are guaranteed to the recipient, no questions asked. This way, families don't have to worry about their loved ones getting home safely from an evening of alcoholic consumption.

Despite our best efforts to prevent drinking and driving, however, there will continue to be drunken drivers on the road, especially past 10 p.m., when up to one in four drivers would have had something to drink, according to some law enforcement estimates.

If you are out on the road late at night:

  • Always buckle up and obey speed limits.
  • Drive defensively and alertly.
  • Report erratic and unsafe drivers to law enforcement.

The holidays are a festive time that do not need to be spoiled by injury, death or traffic violation caused by drunken driving. With this in mind, let's all have safe and happy holidays.

Haven Fearn is Director of the Alcohol and Other Drugs Services Division of Contra Costa Health Services. For more information about 3D Month, go online to

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