Nearly one third of all driving accidents in the United States involve alcohol-impaired drivers. Driving with a blood alcohol level of .08 or more is a crime. You may also be unable to adequately operate a motor vehicle with a much lower level, which puts the driver and others at risk. Drunk driving is avoidable if you exercise precautions and self-awareness to stay safe.
1. Designating a Driver
Plan in advance. Designating a driver is a very popular tactic to avoid drinking and driving. It is important to plan in advance, because your brain function will slow down and your decision making skills will be impaired once you start drinking. Decide before you begin drinking that you will not drive. Figure out who will be getting you home before you leave.
Assign a designated driver. Make sure this person is responsible and keep them in your sight while you are drinking. Have their contact information handy in case you can’t find them when you are ready to leave.
- Choose a friend who doesn’t drink alcohol. You likely have someone in your friend group who doesn’t drink. This person is the most likely to remain sober.
- Decide on one person who will remain sober. You can take turns within your friend group, alternating who will be the designated driver on each occasion. Be sure that the designated driver actually remains sober. The person who has drunk the least is still not sober.
Leave your car at home. If you don’t have your car with you, you can guarantee that you won’t make the choice to drive it home.
- If you are drinking at your home. Give your keys to a responsible friend to ensure that you don’t choose to drive somewhere after you have been drinking.
Leave the venue with your designated driver. It may be tempting to stay longer or leave with someone else. Stick to the plan you made in advance and only leave with your sober, designated driver.
- Keep the phone number of your driver handy in case you can’t find them when you are ready to leave.
- If your designated driver drinks alcohol, find alternate transportation to get home.
2. Finding Other Transportation
Walk to the venue where you will be drinking if it is close enough. make sure that the area is a safe place, especially if you plan on walking home at night. It’s always a good idea to practice the buddy system. Have a friend meet up and walk with you.
Take public transit. Research the bus, train, or streetcar routes available in your area to find safe and affordable travel to your destination.
- Make sure you check the schedule for your outgoing and return travel. Some public transportation will cease to run late at night. Be sure if you take public transportation to the venue that you will also be able to get home late at night.
- Check the routes. Even if some public transit is still running late at night, the routing may change. Some may run express past many of the stops, or not travel all the way to the ends. Be sure that your stop will still be available when you need it for your return trip.
- If you are taking public transit in a vulnerable state after drinking, it is always a good idea to travel in groups. Having friends available is a good way to stay safe and make sure that you reach your destination.
Show up in style by hiring a limo or black car service. This is more expensive option than a taxi or ride share service, but could be a fun and fancy way to stay safe and ensure that you will have a ride home.
- Plan this service in advance with a scheduled time to pick you up from your home and the venue. You want to be sure that the service will still be available when you need to get home.
Flag a taxi cab for a convenient option to get where you’re going. This may be easy in a large city, but taxis may be less frequent in smaller towns. This is especially true late at night, so this is a less reliable option than scheduling a ride in advance.
- Have a friend accompany you and help you flag a cab to make sure you are able to get one.
- Set up a plan to call a friend when you get home to make sure that you made it safely to your destination.
- If there are no taxis readily available call a local service to send a car to pick you up.
Request a rideshare service like Uber or Lyft using an app on your phone. You can share a ride with your friends, or other people using the app at the same moment.
- If you are in a vulnerable state it is best to share the ride with your friends to make sure you get home safe.
- You can request the car to yourself rather than sharing rides with strangers.
- If you travel home on your own or are the last of your group to be dropped off, make plans to call a friend when you get home so they know you made it safely to your destination.
Reserve a designated driver service. There may be a designated driver service in your area which can chauffeur your group. Make reservations with them in advance and keep their contact information handy while you are drinking.
3. Staying Safe
Pay attention to your body. If you have been drinking at all you are at least on the spectrum of drunkenness. You could be showing signs of impairment and slower brain function including lack of motor skills and slower reaction time, leading to the inability to operate a motor vehicle. Some of these signs could be:
- Poor balance or stumbling.
- Difficulty speaking clearly and slurred words.
- Abnormal behavior leading to you doing things you wouldn’t normally do if you were sober.
Give up your keys. As soon as you notice that you are showing signs of impairment, give your keys to a friend, the host or the bartender to ensure that you won’t drive until you are sober. Make sure to only give them your car key. Hold onto your house keys.
Listen to other people. If your friend, the host or the bartender are advising you not to drive, you are likely too drunk. Listen to their advice and acknowledge that they are trying to help you.
Accept help. Bystander intervention is common when it comes to drinking and driving. Many people will be willing to step in, take your keys and help you get home safely. If no one if offering to help, you may need to ask.
- Take a ride from a sober friend. It is best to get in a car with someone you trust when you are in this vulnerable state.
- Allow the host or bartender to call a cab or car service to take you home.
Stay where you are. If you are having a difficult time finding a safe way to get home, find a place to stay which does not involve you driving.
- Ask the host of the party if there is a place you can sleep. Give them your keys and ask that they keep them in a safe place until the morning.
- Stay with a friend if they live nearby and are on their way home.
- Find a hotel within walking distance. Call them to book a room, or have a friend help you secure one. Ask the friend if they will walk you to the hotel and make sure you get checked in safely.
Have an emergency back-up plan. There are people in your life who care about you and want to be sure that you are safe. It may seem scary or embarrassing to call your parents or your siblings if you are too drunk to drive, but they will be glad you did. Your safety is the most important..
Make sure that your phone is charged. You may need your phone to call someone for a ride or get help from a friend. Be sure to charge your phone before you leave the house.
- It is also a good idea to bring a charger with you in case your battery dies before the end of the night or you end up staying where you are and need to get home the next morning.
- You may also want to invest in a portable battery charger for your phone should there not be a power outlet available. Make sure it is fully charged before you leave your house. Keep it handy in your pocket or your bag throughout the night.