If the champagne will be flowing at your New Year’s Eve bash, are you prepared for a guest who has too much to drink?
Being a good host used to mean merely making sure your guests had enough to eat and drink and had a good time. Today it means being a responsible host and, in some cases, a liable one. Many states have social host liability laws, under which a party holder can be held legally liable if a guest becomes drunk, gets behind the wheel and injures someone.
New Year’s is often the most deadly drunk-driving holiday of the year. During the past two New Year’s holidays, 63 percent of all highway deaths were alcohol-related, according to Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD).
If you’re having a New Year’s party, MADD recommends you serve nonalcoholic drinks for those who prefer not to drink alcoholic ones and you have plenty of food on hand so guests won’t drink on empty stomachs. Also, consider having someone serve as bartender to better monitor guests’ liquor consumption.
Also, MADD recommends asking guests to appoint a designated driver before the evening begins to make sure those who are driving won’t be drinking at the party.
But what happens when a guest becomes drunk, despite your best intentions? There is no way to sober someone up quickly. It takes about one hour for the body to metabolize each drink, according to MADD. Drinking black coffee won’t sober someone up, but it is a good idea to serve a snack with some nonalcoholic beverage before guests leave. The food and time required to eat can help reduce the effects of alcohol.
Whatever you do – whether it is allowing the intoxicated guest to sleep it off until sober enough to drive home safely, asking someone else to drive or hiring a taxi – do not let your guest drive drunk.
Sometimes that isn’t so easy if your guest insists he’s OK to drive. The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and The Advertising Council’s Innocent Victims public service campaign offer some helpful tips and advice on how hosts can get the keys away from a drunk driver:
- If it is a close friend, try and use a soft, understated approach at first. Suggest to your friend that he or she has had too much to drink and it would be better if someone else drove or to take a cab.
- Be calm. Joke about it. Make light of it.
- Try to make it sound like you are doing your friend a favor.
- If it is somebody you don’t know well, speak to the friends and have them make an attempt to persuade the guest to hand over the keys. Usually, the individual will listen.
- If it’s a good friend, spouse or significant other, tell that person that if he or she insists on driving, you are not coming along. Suggest that you will call someone else for a ride, take a cab or walk home.
- Find your friend’s or spouse’s keys while he or she is preoccupied, and take them away. Most likely, your guest will think the keys are lost and will be forced to find another mode of transportation.
- If possible, avoid embarrassing the person or being confrontational, particularly when dealing with men. This makes them appear vulnerable to alcohol and its effects.
The National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information provides an online guide for helping men and women know their drinking limits. In 1999, Texas became the 17th state to strengthen the legal definition of drunk driving from 0.10 blood alcohol content to 0.08.