Party (Safely) This New Year

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

While Christmas may be over, if you’re anything like me, the holidays are still in full swing. There are after-Christmas sales to shop, half-price candy displays and plenty of New Year’s festivities to keep you merry all month long. And while my biggest weakness during this time of good cheer is keeping my cookie intake at a minimum, it’s also a time when many people over-indulge in other ways…like with the adult beverages. And while a glass of eggnog might not be so great for your waist, it’s a fine way to celebrate the holidays with friends and family–provided you’ve planned ahead and designated a sober driver for the evening.

Buzzed Driving Is Drunk Driving

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If you live in New England (like me), then you know that winter is not the greatest driving season, even for an experienced road warrior. Black ice, potholes and blinding snow are NOT your car’s friends. More people are on the roads, traveling and shopping, and kids are wound up from excitement and sugar. Take all these factors, and add in a driver who’s had even “just a few” drinks, and it could mean disaster.

I say “just a few” in quotes because we’ve all heard someone say it at one point or another. It’s a common belief that you can go out, have a few cocktails and then drive home. It’s called “buzzed driving,” and a lot of people think it’s perfectly acceptable, legal and safe. However, this mistaken idea often ends in arrest, accident or even death.

Women At Greater Risk

The worst offenders? Young women. “Younger women feel more empowered, more equal to men, and have been beginning to exhibit the same uninhibited behaviors as men,” said Chris Cochran of the California Office of Traffic Safety. Oops. While I live in the city and no longer drive, whether I’m drinking or not, this attitude definitely sounds like me. And as we all learned in health class, men and women are different. Which means that drinking with the boys can be twice as dangerous.

Last year, more than 12,000 people were killed in alcohol-related crashes. It’s easy to see when someone is clearly hammered and way too drunk to drive, but it can be tough to spot someone who’s “just a little buzzed.” But make no mistake, buzzed driving is drunk driving. And because it might not be as obvious to your friends that you’re impaired, you must be responsible for yourself. If you’re going to drink, have a plan to stay over, use public transportation or designate a sober driver.

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Social Media Support

To educate people and help them make better decisions, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Ad Council are continuing their efforts against impaired driving with their “Buzzed Driving is Drunk Driving” PSA campaign. And they’re using social media to do it. They’re active on Twitter, answering questions and posting statistics daily at @BuzzedDriving. They also recently held a live Twitter event with NHTSA experts. Their Facebook Page has a lot of inspiring and heartbreaking personal stories, while the website has an enlightening game that challenges your perception of impairment.

There are a ton of alcohol companies running “drink responsibly” commercials this year, but it never hurts to hear it again. And as young women are more often the ones to get behind the wheel when buzzed, I’ve gotten involved with the campaign. I’m all for having fun, and holiday parties are a staple this season, but think twice before you drink and drive. And play the buzzed driving picture game; it’s harder than you think!

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