Holiday Cheer Turns to Gloom as Drunk Driving Spikes

One too many toasts can prove deadly during the holidays if partygoers choose to drink and drive. The long Thanksgiving weekend has become the deadliest holiday of the year, propelled by an increase in alcohol sales and drunk driving. During the 2017 holiday season alone, 1,143 people were killed between Thanksgiving Eve and New Year’s Day.

Throwing a Festive Fete

Spreading cheer and giving thanks with your loved ones are what the holidays are all about. Keep guests safe with these tips for responsible hosts:

  • Stay in control: If you choose to serve alcohol at your party, stay within your own limits to set a good example for guests.
  • Choose a reliable bartender or hire a professional: Don’t let underage guests drink alcohol. Consider putting away alcohol 90 minutes before the end of your party. Offer non-alcoholic beverages in addition to other drinks.
  • Watch your guests: Arrange rides for any guests who appear to be intoxicated. If they insist on leaving, take their keys and ask a sober guest for help getting them home.
  • Provide snacks: Food can slow the absorption of alcohol and reduce the peak level of alcohol in the body by about one-third.
  • Do not pressure guests to drink: Social pressures can be overwhelming. Your guests should feel comfortable not drinking. And never serve alcohol to guests who are visibly intoxicated.

Host Liability and Dram Shop

If you are hosting a party or attending a holiday event at a restaurant or bar, there are certain states that consider the host liable if a guest is overserved. “Dram shop” laws refer to laws governing commercial establishments that sell and serve alcoholic beverages to people who are visibly intoxicated, or to minors, who go on to cause injury or death to third parties.

However, it isn’t only commercial establishments that are covered by liability laws. In some states, a host who throws a party can be held accountable if a tipsy guest gets behind the wheel after leaving. For example, many state laws allow the victim of a DUI accident to sue and recover damages from a social host when:

  • The host provided alcohol to a “visibly intoxicated” guest
  • Circumstances indicated that serving the guest alcohol created an “unreasonable risk of foreseeable harm”
  • The host failed to take reasonable measures to prevent the harm caused; and,
  • The guest got into a car accident and negligently caused property damages or injuries to another person.

In some states you may not be liable if a guest over the age of 21 causes damages, but you ARE liable if you provide alcohol to someone under 21. Dram shop and social host liability laws vary widely state to state. For more information, learn about your state’s dram shop and social host liability laws here.