The 101 on Holiday Parties: Some Sober Tips from MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving)

If these revelers look like your friends at last year’s holiday bash, you’re over-serving. Here are our holiday party tips for how to throw a fantastic soiree with elegance and grace – limit alcohol consumption, and all will be merry and bright.

By Holly Reich

For the “Mad Men” generation, driving drunk was simply the way you got home from a party. It was also the generation that thought smoking helped pregnant women stay calm and saw nothing wrong sticking the baby on the front seat while the older kids stood up in the back.

While women’s health and passenger safety are now woven into our DNA, too many of us drive, or let friends drive, when they shouldn’t.

Consider This:

Drunk driving crashes are most prevalent during the holidays, as more people are on the road after having attended a friend’s or an office party where liquor is served.

In 2009 (the last year for which statistics are available), between Thanksgiving and New Years Day, drunk drivers killed 879 people in the United States.

Each year approximately 11,000 people will die in drunk driving crashes – one every 50 minutes.

An average drunk driver has driven drunk at least 80 times before their first arrest.

Drunk driving costs each adult in this country almost $500 per year in added automotive and medical insurance payments.

One in three people will be involved in a drunk driving crash in their lifetime.
Statistics like this are sobering. But being sober is what we’re talking about.

This alarming data is brought to you by MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving). MADD, the nation’s largest nonprofit working to protect families from drunk driving and underage drinking, was founded by a mom whose daughter was killed by a drunk driver.

To keep your holiday season in check, MADD provides the following guidelines for holiday parties:

Be Responsible

Basically this boils down to everything from planning the party menu to assessing how guests will get home safely once the party is over.

What Every Host Needs to Know
• Don’t rely on coffee to sober up your guests. Only time can make someone sober.
• Beer and wine are just as intoxicating as hard liquor. A 12-ounce can of beer, a five-ounce glass of wine, a 12-ounce wine cooler and an ounce and a half of liquor contain the same amount of alcohol.
• Don’t rely on someone’s physical appearance to determine if they have had too much to drink.
• Mixers won’t help dilute alcohol. Carbonated mixers like club soda or tonic water cause alcohol to be absorbed into a person’s system more quickly. Fruit juice and other sweet mixers mask the taste of alcohol and may cause people to drink more.

Planning Your Party

• As guests RSVP, confirm that at least one person in each group is prepared to be the non-drinking designated driver.
• Provide plenty of food to keep your guests from drinking on an empty stomach.
• Avoid too many salty snacks, which tend to make people thirsty and drink more.
• Offer non-alcoholic beverages or mocktails for designated drivers and others who prefer not to drink alcohol. And as the evening progresses, decrease the amount of alcohol poured in drinks and replace with mixers.
• If preparing an alcoholic punch, use a non-carbonated base, like fruit juice. Alcohol is absorbed into the blood stream faster with a carbonated base.
• Be prepared by having the number of a taxi service on hand for those who need a ride. Also, be ready with some clean linens so you can turn your sofa into a hotel for guests who need to sleep it off.

During Your Party

• Never serve alcohol to someone under the legal drinking age, and never ask children to serve alcohol at parties.
• Don’t let guests mix their own drinks. Choosing a reliable “bartender” will help you keep track of the size and number of drinks that guests consume.
• If a guest appears to be drinking a bit much, offer to freshen his or her drink with a virgin version.
• Do not push drinks! Drinking at a party is not mandatory for having a good time.
• Have fun – but not too much fun. To be a good host, you should stay within your limits in order to make sure your guests stay within theirs.
• Close the bar 90 minutes before the party ends and serve a great dessert treat with coffee. Remember, only time sobers someone who has been drinking.
• If, despite your efforts, some of your guests have had too much to drink, drive them home, arrange for a ride with another guest who is sober, call a taxi, or invite them to stay over.

Learn more at or call 1-877-ASK-MADD.

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