It’s that time of year again – the hustle and bustle of the holiday season is upon us. It’s no secret that social drinking is part of American culture. While you can never have too much holiday cheer, when alcohol is flowing freely, it can be easy to have too much holiday “spirit.”

The winter holiday season sees an increase in DWI offenses and alcohol-related car crashes. According to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, 2,757 drivers were arrested for suspicion of driving under the influence during the statewide 2018 holiday DWI enforcement campaign.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 40 percent of traffic fatalities during the holidays involve an impaired driver. Since 2014, 28 people have been killed on Minnesota roads from the day before Thanksgiving to December 30.

Binge drinking

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recognizes binge drinking as the most common, costly and deadly pattern of excessive alcohol use. The time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s accounts for some of the highest incidents of social binge drinking and when moderation is rarely taken seriously.

One of the largest groups at risk for drinking and driving are those who binge drink. A CDC survey reveals that one in eight people who binge drink get behind the wheel and drive within two hours; approximately 55 percent drive home from bars and restaurants and 23 percent drive home from someone’s house.

How to stay safe this holiday season

There are more social gatherings during the holidays when people are in festive moods and celebrating the season. Such celebrations can be a precursor to overindulging, especially when beer, wine and spirits are readily available and often free.

Here are a few tips you can take to prevent holiday drinking and driving:

  • If you do drink – don’t drive.
  • Be a designated driver – be available to pick up a loved one or friend anytime, anywhere.
  • Plan your safe ride home — designate a sober driver, call a taxi or ride-hailing service, or just spend the night.
  • Speak up – if you know someone has been drinking, take the keys and make a plan to get your friend home safely.
  • Be a responsible host – toward the end of the party, keep an eye on the party-goers. Double-check that everyone has a safe and sober ride home.

Because common sense often goes out the window when people drink, it’s crucial to have a clear plan for your next holiday event.

The consequences for a DWI can include loss of license for up to a year, thousands of dollars in fines and possible jail time.