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— For better or worse, the consumption of alcoholic beverages is routine at holiday celebrations across the country.

Unfortunately, National Highway Transportation Safety Administration data shows that about 1,200 lives are lost each year between Thanksgiving and New Year’s due to drinking and driving.

If you are hosting a holiday celebration, there are steps you can take to ensure your guests don’t become a holiday statistic.

Plan Ahead

When planning your party, it’s safe to assume that there will be guests who should not be driving home.

Many communities have “Sober Ride” programs during the holidays. These programs provide free cab rides or make arrangements to have designated drivers available.

You can also request that guests who plan on drinking make arrangements for a ride beforehand or that they surrender their car keys upon arrival and return them only to a sober driver.

Another option is to have an air mattress, fold-out couch or other accommodations available for guests to stay over if necessary.

Eat, Then Drink and be Merry

Provide plenty of food to keep your guests from drinking on an empty stomach. Keep in mind that salty snacks tend to make people thirsty and encourage them to drink more. Be sure there are nonalcoholic options for nondrinkers and designated drivers. When serving drinks to your guests, here are some things to keep in mind.

-If preparing an alcoholic punch, use a noncarbonated base. Alcohol is absorbed faster with a carbonated base.

-Never serve someone under the legal drinking age or allow minors to serve guests.

-Don’t let guests mix their own drinks. Designate a reliable “bartender” to keep track of who is drinking and how much.

-Do not encourage drinking. It’s not essential to a good time.

-Be a good host by staying within your limits so you can be sure your guests stay within theirs.

-Close the bar 90 minutes before the party ends and serve a dessert with coffee.

-Remember that only time can sober someone who has been drinking.

If you think one or more of your guests are drinking too much, here are some suggestions to help them out:◊Engage them in conversation to slow down their drinking.

Offer to make their next drink and use less alcohol.

Offer high protein food.

Don’t be afraid to insist they slow down, stop or switch to a non-alcoholic beverage.

No matter what, if guests have been drinking too much, don’t let them drive.

And if you’re not sure, always err on the side of caution and arrange a ride or a safe place to sleep it off.

River Valley Ozark, Pages 103 on 11/26/2009

Print Headline: Holiday party planning includes a safe driving strategy

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