No one wants to be a party pooper as the nation gears up for New Year's 2016 - so we'll be the bearers of sobering news.
More people die in alcohol-related wrecks around New Year's than any other day of the year, according to the National Institute for Highway Safety data cited by autoblog.com. On average, 118 people in the United States lose their lives in New Year's Day accidents. While that's fewer deaths than the nation endures each July 4, a higher percentage of the New Year's Day fatalities are related to drinking and driving.
Fifty-four percent of Jan. 1 crash deaths linked to drinking
Dig deeper into the numbers and it's clear that legions of Americans are ignoring warnings to designate drivers when they drink out the old year and guzzle in the new year. Booze is a factor in more than half of fatal accidents on New Year's Day. Nearly 10,000 Americans a year die in drunken driving incidents - that's roughly 30 every single day. That figure has remained pretty stable for the last decade.
"Make sure every guest has a plan for how to get home safely."
So, how can you prevent yourself, your loved ones or your friends from joining this grim group of statistics? Here are six tips drawn from the NIHS, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Mothers Against Drunk Driving:
1. Designate a driver: Before the partying starts, make sure to have a plan. Designate a driver who won't touch a drop during the celebrations. That's important because even one drink can impair some people's reactions enough to contribute to a wreck.
2. Keep keys in sober hands: Even with the best of intentions, an impaired person can find the jingle of keys in his or her pocket too much to resist as booze erodes good decision-making. So while your judgment is clear, make the decision to leave keys at home or hand them over to your designated driver.
3. Check that guests have a plan: If you're hosting a party, it's your responsibility to see that no one leaves your festivities primed for drunken-driving tragedy. Make sure every guest has a plan for how to get home safely.
4. More options than ever for rides home: With the rise of car-sharing companies like Lyft and Uber, there are even fewer excuses not to get a safe ride home. In urban areas, you can bet sober drivers will be a click away on your smartphone. Taxis and public transportation like trains and buses also offer safe routes home.
5. Drunken walking is also dangerous: While it's easy to just think about the dangers of people being behind the wheel and impaired, pedestrian deaths also spike in the hours before and after the New Year arrives. A federal study showed New Year's is just as dangerous for pedestrians as Halloween. Even if you can walk home, take a non-impaired buddy with you to make sure you stay on the sidewalk and out of the road.
6. Consider the financial costs: While the worst outcome is of course loss of life - whether yours, a friends or that of innocent strangers - getting a DUI is also monetarily expensive. The NHTSA says the average drunken driving incident puts a $10,000 dent in the driver's finances. That's not even worst case - the financial cost often reaches $20,000 or more.
So we hope you have a good time ringing in 2016 - just follow these tips to make sure you're around to enjoy everything the new year has to offer.