I have a love-hate relationship with alcohol. Growing up, I hated it. A close relative of mine struggled with alcoholism and as a child I witnessed what happens when people let alcohol take over their lives. I also knew from a young age that my uncle died in a drunk driving accident before I was born. To me, alcohol was the enemy and had taken a great deal from my family.
December is National Impaired Driving Prevention Month. Why this month? December is one of the busiest times on the nation’s roadways and also a time when social events bring people out on the roads after they’ve had a few drinks. Despite the availability of taxi services, increased awareness, and the threat of prosecution, people still drive drunk. According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, 830 Americans lost their lives in December 2012 in crashes involving a drunk driver.
Even in the face of all these dismal statistics, I enjoy alcohol. In fact I work in the craft beer industry, as a festival owner and marketer for sampling events. That’s right; the girl who grew up hating alcohol now runs events that encourage people to sample and love alcohol more.
Am I hypocritical? I don’t think so. We work hard to make sure people get home safely from our events. I position myself at the exit at the end of an event and quiz people on how they’re getting home. I’ve taken a ABC class on how to recognize signs that someone has had too much to drink.
But this month is a good reminder of how important it is to avoid getting behind the wheel when you’ve had a few. We’ve all been there. You’re at a party and had a couple more than you intended. Taking a cab is such a hassle, so costly — blah, blah, blah. Consider the alternative. Sure you might get lucky and make it home, or you might kill or injure someone else or get a DUI conviction that will haunt you for years.
A few things to remember this month, and always:
- Plan ahead. How are you getting home after social events that involve alcohol?
- Look out for others. If you know someone has had too much to drink, don’t let them drive. I’ve been yelled at for taking keys, or cutting people off at our events. I always tell them, “You hate me now, but you’ll thank me tomorrow.”
- Eat. Before drinking, make sure you’ve had a solid meal that’s high in protein. I learned in class and from personal experience that foods that take longer to digest (meaning foods with lots of protein and/or fiber) provide a better base on your stomach. A large pizza is not the answer before a night of drinking.
Here are a few signs that someone has had a drink too many:
- Can your friend walk in a straight line?
- Can he or she make eye contact with you?
- Does she or he make sense in conversation?
- How much did your friend drink relative to his or her body size? I can hold a conversation if I’ve had three beers in two hours, but that doesn’t mean I should be on the road.
So have fun this holiday season. It’s okay to kick back with friends, but be smart about it. Drunk driving can impact you long after that hangover will.