To enjoy the holidays, drive sober

THE OLYMPIANDecember 18, 2011 

The holidays have arrived, bringing more family celebrations and parties, and more time off work.

Unfortunately, this festive time of year also allows for more occasions to drink alcohol, which can sometimes lead to drinking and driving. In fact, there are more alcohol-related traffic fatalities between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day in the United States than any other time during the year. In Washington state, nearly half of all traffic deaths from 2006-10 involved a motor vehicle driver under the influence of alcohol or other drugs.

To help ensure a safer holiday season, here are some important things to consider before heading out to celebrate:

 • If you plan to drink any alcohol, designate a driver who will remain sober the entire evening. You also can arrange for a taxi to take you home, or simply plan to stay overnight.

 • Remember that one 12-ounce can of beer has about the same amount of alcohol as one 6-ounce glass of wine, or 1.5 ounces of hard liquor, such as vodka.

 • The only thing that will sober you up is time. Drinking coffee or taking a cold shower will not make you sober.

 • Protect yourself. Don’t get in a car with a driver who has been drinking alcohol.

If you are planning to host a holiday party and serve alcohol, there are steps you can take to make sure everyone celebrating avoids drinking and driving:

 • Make sure you have a variety of nonalcoholic beverages available and plenty of food.

 • Never pressure anyone to have an alcoholic drink and do not serve alcohol to a guest you believe to be intoxicated.

 • Avoid serving holiday punch with alcohol. Guests may not realize how much they are drinking and could end up consuming much more alcohol than they planned.

 • Be aware of how much your guests are drinking and set limits. Eighty-five percent of drinking-and-driving incidents are reported by people who also report binge drinking. Binge drinking means five or more drinks for men or four or more drinks for women within a short time.

 • Stop serving alcohol at least an hour before the party ends.

 • Include guests in your safety plans. When each group arrives, ask who their designated driver is, and keep the phone numbers of local taxi companies handy.

 • Do not let guests drive if they are impaired.

Put some of these steps in place to help keep family, friends and loved ones safe when celebrating this holiday season. And if you happen to see a drunken driver on the road, call 911 right away.

For more information about drinking and driving, visit the Centers for Disease Control at cdc.gov or email avalosj@co.thurston.wa.us.

Dr. Diana T. Yu is the health officer for Thurston and Mason counties. Reach her at 360-867-2501 or yud@co.thurston.wa.us.

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