4 tips to prevent drinking and driving at your holiday party

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4 tips to prevent drinking and driving at your holiday party

'Tis the season to be merry and that means holiday parties with family and friends.

For more than a few people these gatherings will involve a libation or two.

Susan MacAskill, chapter services manager for Mothers Against Drunk Driving in the Atlantic region, says it's important for everyone to enjoy this time of year, but to do it safely.

"At this time of the year there's a lot of celebrations and shall we say, toasts to good cheer," MacAskill said.

"It's our hope that people will be able to enjoy their celebrations but that they'll be responsible as well and there won't be any tragic outcomes from someone making a bad decision."

RCMP Staff Sgt. Kevin Baillie said law enforcement deal with more calls for drunk driving around the holidays because people are going to parties and are often in a "celebratory mood."

1. Safe rides home

MacAskill said an easy way to make sure all of your guests are on the same page is to be clear when extending a party invitation that part of your plan is making sure everyone has a safe ride home.

This has guests expecting the question of how they are getting home and avoids a potentially awkward situation at the door.

Baillie said for guests, ensuring you have a way home or a place to stay the night of the party is the easiest way to stay safe.  

"The biggest thing is, if you're going to be a partygoer, to make plans in advance that if you plan on drinking … you won't have to drive afterwards," he said.

"The big thing is to plan in advance, not to get to a party ... somewhere you can't stay and then find that you've had too much to drink and can't find any way to get out of there."

MacAskill said once the host knows how everyone is supposed to be getting home, they can make sure those plans are followed through.

But sometimes even the best laid plans go awry, so hosts should make sure to have taxi numbers available, and be ready to have an intoxicated guest stay over for the night.

2. Monitor consumption levels

MacAskill suggests party hosts should offer non- and low-alcohol beverages and food along with other alcoholic beverages.

She also said hosts should serve the alcoholic beverages rather than allow guests to serve themselves, as a way to monitor consumption.

"If someone reaches a state of intoxication that you know we strongly encourage that that person not be served any additional alcohol," she said.

Planning to have a cut-off time well before the party wraps up will also help in making sure people are getting home safe.

Finally, hosts, don't just focus on partygoers — make sure you aren't having too much to drink either while tending bar.

"Supervising and intervening are much better done if a person's in a sober state," MacAskill said.

3. Be aware of your guests

Keeping an eye out for guests that might be over-imbibing can help head off a problem before it becomes a situation.

MacAskill said hosts often know most of the attendees of their gatherings and would probably be able to spot signs of intoxication.

She said that volume of voice, problems with balance, becoming more aggressive and nodding off or acting tired could all be signs that someone shouldn't be driving home.

"Different people respond differently to a level of alcohol and so if a person does not appear to be in the same temperament and state of mind that they would be under sober conditions … then obviously those are red flags and are a cause for concern," MacAskill said.

4.Take control of the situation

MacAskill said that if someone has had too much to drink there are different paths a host can take depending on the reaction of a guest.

She said that simply asking the person how much they've had can lead to problems because if someone is intoxicated they may "minimize the volume that they have consumed, or they've lost count and so they go for a lower number to make it sound like it's not so significant or serious."

"If party hosts just accept that as what's taken place, there might be a tragic outcome."

This is where making sure as host you aren't also intoxicated, and have been monitoring how much people are drinking, comes into play.

Baillie said party hosts could be responsible for the consequences if they don't stop intoxicated guests from driving home.

"If you are hosting a party and somebody ... you're aware they've had a lot to drink, and you allow them to get into a vehicle and drive you could certainly be held partially or fully liable," he said.

MacAskill said hosts should ask someone attending the party to be ready in the event that a debate or argument starts between the host and an intoxicated guest.

That person would be able to step in and help the host impress upon the guest how important safety is.

"If you have someone who's drinking and is attempting to drive, if you can get their keys away from them, you know, that sometimes results in a confrontation that ... is not a good scene," Baillie said.

"But it's a much better scene than having the person get in their vehicle and go down the road and get into a fatal or serious collision."

Baillie said Islanders have been increasingly calling the police when they know of, or suspect a person is driving drunk.

"What we've seen more and more on Prince Edward Island is people calling 911 to report impaired drivers. Whether it's from where the person left … or other people on the highway are seeing these people driving and calling," he said. 

"We certainly respond to every call we receive to report of a possible impaired driver."

MacAskill said she and MADD encourage hosts to call the police if an intoxicated guests insists on leaving.

"Making a 911 call could save a life," she said.

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