According to Safe Auto Insurance Co., there are 71 percent more vehicle crashes with drugs or alcohol as a contributing factor between Dec. 31 at 6 p.m. and Jan. 1 at 6 a.m. than other incidents on other days of the year. Mothers Against Drunk Driving warns: "New Year's Day is the most dangerous day of the year for drunk driving on our nation's roadways."
If you plan to go out for any part of New Year's, including hours before traditional New Year's Eve parties and morning trips to get bagels and coffee, travel with extra caution. You never know who might have gotten behind the wheel impaired. Even tired driving is a danger.
Here are some top tips to help you stay safe and to help protect your loved ones during the New Year's holiday:
--Plan a one-location celebration. Check into a hotel for drinks and dinner with friends, and enjoy the relief of not having to drive home. "Plus, a hotel setting lets you pop back to your hotel room for primping, or making phone calls in privacy," says Jennifer Cooper, event sales director at Westminster Hotel. Staying in a hotel may also open up opportunities for spa treatments and time in a Jacuzzi or indoor pool for a relaxing start to your weekend's festivities and a relaxing way to end the year.
--Get a designated driver. A responsible friend must volunteer to skip alcoholic drinks that night, providing a safer ride home for you and for your loved ones.
--Know your limits. You know your usual limits when it comes to alcohol, but in the festivity of a party, you may try different types of drinks, and perhaps you have forgotten your tolerance for champagne. Mixing drinks can create a higher level of intoxication, so be mindful of which types of drinks you tolerate best. If you do plan to sample different cocktails, pace yourself and be sure to eat and drink water to help your system process your alcohol levels.
--Don't leave your drinks unattended. Anyone could have tampered with it when you stepped away from your table to dance or go to the bathroom. It's far safer to consider an unattended drink to be waste and order a new one than to wind up in the ER or in danger.
--Have the number of a local taxi service on you. Program it into your phone, and at the start of the night, encourage everyone in your group to do so as well. You may get separated as a group, so it's best if each loved one has access to a safe ride phone number.
--Travel in numbers. When one of you wishes to go to the bathroom or to step outside to smoke, at least one other person should go with them. A person with a predatory mindset will be more attracted to a solo person moving through the building or going outside, so traveling in a group at any time during your celebration is an important step for safety.
--Make sure someone not in your group knows where you will be. If there is an emergency at your location, they'll know to check up on you.
--Charge your phone completely. And keep it on energy-save mode all night. Consider your phone to be a safety lifeline, allowing you to contact members of your group if you do get separated from them or to call a taxi.
--Consider hiring a limousine or party bus for your group. A reputable company will provide a safe driver for your outing.
--If you're hosting a party, be sure that each guest has a plan to get home safely.
--As host, consider getting an extra insurance rider to cover any damages or injuries occurring at your home.
--To help keep guests from getting too inebriated, be sure to have plenty of food available throughout your party. And be sure that coffee is available to guests who wish to stop drinking alcohol and switch to your excellent java blend.
--Have a guest room ready with clean sheets on the bed and clean towels for the morning, in case any guests must stay at your place for their safety.
If you're on the road and suspect that another driver may be driving while drunk, such as weaving on the road or driving erratically, note the license plate and any identifying marks on the car, such as tailgate stickers. Then call the police to alert them to a potential danger on the road. Your action may prevent that driver from hurting others, him or herself, or you and your loved ones.
And don't hesitate to take the keys from any loved one who you suspect may have had too much to drink before getting in their car and driving. Be ready to hear assurances that they're fine to drive, and don't make the regrettable decision of saying "OK" and letting them drive; cemeteries are filled with people whose friends initially thought they shouldn't drive, and jails are home to people who drove drunk and killed others. With that in mind, it will be easier to risk their getting mad at you for confronting them.
Additional aspects of staying safe on New Year's: think twice about eating food that's been out on a buffet table for many hours, unrefrigerated. Food poisoning is no way to start the new year. Don't leave your handbag at your table while you're dancing, even if you think you're close enough to your table to see it. A stealthy thief can lift your phone, ID and credit cards without your ever seeing. And if you feel threatened by anyone in the club or out on the streets, seek a law enforcement professional or turn into an open establishment to dissuade that threatening person or group from following you home.