Keeping New Year’s partyers from becoming drunk drivers

’Tis the season for holiday parties, including the mother of all parties: New Year’s.

Most people put a great deal of time and effort into planning a holiday party, whether it’s for the home or office. But in the midst of working on the details of the menu, guest list and decorations, one thing that often gets overlooked is how to make sure guests don’t drink too much.

“A responsible host wants to be sure all guests have a good time. But it’s even more important to make sure that all guest survive,” said Tom Odegaard, president of the Seattle-based Evergreen Safety Council. “Between office parties, holiday receptions, family gatherings and New Year’s Eve, December is a peak time for drunk driving accidents and fatalities. If you are hosting a party, please plan ahead to make sure only non-drinking, sober drivers are leaving wit car keys in their hands.”

Here are some recommendations from the Evergreen Safety Council about being a responsible New Year’s party host:

- Know who is driving. Ask each arriving group who their designated driver is. Collect car keys at the door. This will allow you to assess the driver before letting them leave.

- Be prepared. If your event will be held in or close to a hotel, encourage guests ahead of time to book rooms for the night. Have alternative transportation arranged or keep the phone numbers for several cab companies handy. Know about any “safe ride” programs in your area. At home, make sure you have extra clean sheets for unexpected overnight company.

- Serve food and lots of it. High-protein foods such as cheese, nuts (unsalted), meat and fish slow the body’s absorption of alcohol. Avoid salty foods that encourage people to drink more.

- Offer options. Have a variety of non-alcoholic beverages available such as juice, soda, bottled water, coffee and tea. Make a “mocktail” in a punch bowl the centerpiece of the serving table. Make food and non-alcoholic drinks self-serve and easily available to encourage their consumption.

- Limit access to alcohol. Never let guest pour their own alcohol. Hire a bartender who is trained in the responsible service of alcohol. Instruct your bartender to pour lightly and keep track of refills. Close the bar one hour before the party ends.

- Obey the law. Have a bartender card anyone who appears under the age of 30 (no ID, no alcohol). Never serve alcohol to anyone under the age of 21 or to a guest who is visibly intoxicated.

- Focus on fun. Have games, music, entertainment or other activities to shift the party’s emphasis from drinking to socializing.

- Know the limits. Only time will sober up your guests. Coffee, cold air, even a cold shower won’t help. Don’t be fooled by lines like, “I’m fine. I only had a couple of drinks.”

- Know what to look for. Signs of impairment can include a lack of coordination (stumbling, spilling drinks), unusual behavior (loudness, aggressiveness, extreme moods such as very talkative or very indifferent) and slurred or incoherent speech. But even those without outward signs may be impaired.

- Get help. For all business functions, as well as large at-home parties, hire security to make sure impaired guests do not try to drive home. If this is not feasible, recruit several people who will not be drinking and ask them ahead of time to help you make sure everyone has a safe ride home.