Safety First

By Christopher Crown

November 3, 2017 5 min read

Your friend, relative or co-worker has been deeply dipping into the holiday punch bowl, and now he or she is getting out his or her car keys. Preventing overindulgence, recognizing when someone has had too much, intervening, etc., and an overview of alternatives to driving (AAA "Tipsy Tow," Uber, Lyft and more).

For more reasons than just the cold weather, guests are more likely than not to drive to your next holiday soiree. (If only every holiday party this season were within walking distance.) For party hosts, that means keeping a keen eye for drunk guests who are about to get behind the wheel. From preventing overindulgence to finding alternatives to driving home, here are some tried and true strategies for hosts to ensure their guests don't regret this year's holiday frivolities.

In a 2015 interview with "Today," Dr. Mehmet Oz discussed some of the challenges with holiday drinking: the main issue being serving size. With only a holiday mug and a ladle, the standard conception of what constitutes "a drink" can be hard to pinpoint. This can often be misleading, as guests are not presented with the standard portion sizes for alcohol they would find in a restaurant or bar. Additionally, Oz mentioned, when guests do not know the contents of holiday punch, their standard drinking practices have no perspective. With mystery punch, friends and flowing conversation, it can be easy to overindulge before you notice the effects from the first few drinks. Make sure to include a small label next to the punch bowl showing the ingredients and general proportions. This will help guests understand the alcohol content beforehand.

In addition to drink transparency, the Delaware Office of Highway Safety recommends several tips for preventing overindulgence at holiday parties in their 2013 "Safe and Sober" online pamphlet. The DOHS emphasizes always serving food with alcoholic drinks, as snacking speeds up metabolism, and also ending alcohol service at least one hour before the party's end time. This gives guests the opportunity to keep eating but stop drinking. Additionally, they recommend making the bar/punch bowl less of a party emphasis by placing it in a less trafficked area. This will take the pressure off drinking and keep guests from grabbing another drink absent-mindedly.

No matter how many precautions a good host takes, there will almost always be that one intoxicated guest. In the Know Zone, an online resource with information on substance abuse, mental and physical health, offers several of the most common signs of intoxication so that hosts can intervene sooner than later:

--Decrease in caution or inhibitions (e.g., guests saying things they might not normally say).

--Loss of fine motor control.

--Slurred speech.

--Loss of balance.

--Glossy eyes.


--Extreme fatigue, nausea or vomiting.

Keeping a lookout for these signs ensures that hosts can plan alternate ways for their guests to get home. The most well-known service is Uber, the ride-hailing service founded in 2009, serving 633 cities worldwide. Lyft, a competitor of Uber, is also popping up in more and more cities and offers cheap fares for almost any destination. Guests will need to reserve the Uber/Lyft via a smartphone app for proper payment, however. There are also some lesser-known options, including AAA's Tow to Go services. Designed specifically for impaired drivers, AAA will give a free and confidential ride to both members and non-members. If none of these companies serves your region, a full list of designated driver services can be found at

Planning a party is a big responsibility, and it is always the host's job to ensure that alcohol is being consumed safely and that guests are pacing themselves. Although intervening by offering glasses of water, cutting a guest off or even calling an Uber can be awkward, guarding family and friends from drunken driving is always the best option in the long run.

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