The holidays are a time of celebrations and parties. Many of these festivities involve alcohol. But drinking alcohol and driving never mix. There are a number of things you can do to keep yourself and the people around you safe when it comes to alcohol and the holidays.

Parties and get-togethers involving alcohol, along with people traveling during the holiday season, can lead to tragedy. According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, from Dec. 21-26, 134 people died in drunk driving crashes last year. Over the New Year’s holiday, from the evening of Dec. 30 to the morning of Jan. 3, 140 people died in alcohol-related car accidents.

During a recent year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that 405 deaths in South Carolina resulted from impaired driving crashes, representing nearly half of all traffic fatalities in the state. NHTSA just released data for 2013, which show 10,076 people in the United States died in car accidents involving a drunk driver – an average of one death every 52 minutes.

Stay Safe While Celebrating

One life lost to drunk driving is one life too many. Drunk driving is not an accident; it can easily be prevented. It’s important to plan ahead to make sure you, as well as your friends and family, stay safe amid the holiday revelry.

The best thing to do is to designate a sober driver ahead of time. An alternative is to call a cab or use a ride-sharing service. NHTSA recently unveiled a mobile app to help people get a safe ride home. The SaferRide app can help keep drunk drivers off the road by allowing users to call a taxi or a friend, and it identifies the user’s location to make for an easy pick-up.

While at a holiday party, it’s a good idea to make sure you eat, which can slow down the effects of alcohol. Moderation, including alternating an alcoholic beverage with a glass of water, can also help. Even if you take measures to reduce the effects of alcohol, it is better not to drive after drinking, even if you think you aren’t impaired. When in doubt, don’t drive.

Be a Caring, Cautious Host

When hosting a holiday event, it’s especially important to make sure your guests don’t drive after they have been drinking. Make it clear to your guests ahead of time that no one will drive away drunk. Take the keys from anyone who has had too much to drink and arrange for a ride home or a place to sleep.

Owners of bars and restaurants should be particularly cautious about patrons who drink and drive. If a patron you served were to drive drunk and cause an accident, it’s possible your bar or restaurant could be held responsible under South Carolina’s dram shop laws.

Take Extra Precautions When Driving During the Holiday Season

While you may be sober, that doesn’t mean everyone else on the road has followed the rules.

Most drunk driving accidents happen after dark. Be extra alert when driving during the holiday season, watching for other drivers who may be speeding, swerving or operating their car in other dangerous ways. Steer clear of any cars you think might be operated by an impaired driver.

If you are involved in an accident caused by a drunk driver, it’s important to consult with a qualified personal injury attorney who can help you sort through your legal options.

About the Author

Mark Joye is the Head of the Litigation Department at the Joye Law Firm. A Board-Certified Trial Advocate with nearly 30 years of litigation experience, he currently serves on the Board of Governors for the American Association for Justice and is a past president of the South Carolina Association for Justice. In a recent trial, Joye headed a trial team that secured $17 million for a family killed in a tractor-trailer accident.

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