With the holiday season upon us, I want to share a few of the results from a national holiday survey conducted by Responsibility.org. The purpose of the survey was to see how informed Americans were on issues related to responsible alcohol consumption such as the legal limit for drunk driving, how to get home safely if you feel unable to drive, and how to tell if someone is too drunk to drive. Here are some stats that stood out:
- 63% of Americans do not know the legal limit of 0.08 BAC for drunk driving, which is the law in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
- 63% reported they rarely or never use alternative transportation options such as taxi services or public transportation, when they go out socially.
- 81% percent said they feel confident to help a friend or guest, who may have over-consumed, get home safely.
- However, only 54% said they have actually stopped someone from driving or getting in the car with someone who has over-consumed.
This information isn’t new to me because I was trained as an drug and alcohol counselor. But I am a bit troubled by the fact that only 54% of respondents have stopped someone from driving after they’ve had too much to drink. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, though. Many people are afraid to speak up to friends and family members when they think they’re too inebriated to drive. They don’t want to upset anyone or deal with the conflict that will ensure. And there will be conflict. Rarely have I asked someone to give me their keys without their becoming belligerent or even violent.
A friend of mine once took a swing at me because I took his keys and wouldn’t let him drive. I’ve also had to wrestle with other friends to take their keys away. After a few of those incidents, I’ve learned to address the issue of drinking and drive before the party starts so everyone is clear of expectations.
Just the other night, a few coworkers and I held a team Happy Hour to celebrate the holidays. We went to our favorite piano bar where we sang (badly), danced (even worse), and shared a few drinks. Before we left the office, I told the team that I would pay the cab fare for anyone who I felt had too much to drink. They agreed to the terms, but I think it was only because I was also buying the drinks.
As the night progressed, my co-workers partied and had fun until it was time for me to go home.
“Does anyone need a cab?” I asked.
A chorus of “Nos” rang out. I expected that answer, but I knew that at least one co-worker was unable to drive. I pulled him aside and told him that I would be sending him home in a taxi. He thanked me for the gesture and gathered his things to leave. The rest of the team decided to stay a bit longer. I asked one more time if anyone need a taxi. Again, they refused.
Before I left, I asked a coworker to watch over the team and make sure that they got home safely. He agreed.
On Monday, the coworker came to my office.
“I just wanted to let you know that I had to send Tracy (not her real name) home in a taxi,” he said.
“That’s great,” I said.
“Is there something wrong?” I asked.
“Tracy lives very far away and the cab ride was expensive,” he said. “I hope that’s okay.”
“Is Tracy here today?” I asked.
“Yes,” he said. “She’s in her office.”
“Then it’s okay,” I said. “Getting her home safely is all that matters.”
I could tell that he was relieved, not only because I wasn’t upset about the price, but also because Tracey, who can be a bit ornery at times, didn’t resist when he called a cab for her.
This holiday season, I encourage you to drink responsibly and encourage your friends and family to do the same. If someone has had too much to drink, show them how much you care by stopping them from driving and arranging alternate transportation. Keeping your loved ones safe will be the key to a happy holiday season.