Christmas is a time of celebration – sometimes too much so. The time between Christmas and New Year’s each year is also, unfortunately, known for the number of tragic accidents caused by drivers having too much to drink.

In fact, more people die as a result of these alcohol-related accidents during the Christmas to New Year’s period than at any other time of the year. Some 40 percent involve an alcohol-impaired driver, while the statistic during the rest of December is 28 percent.

How do you counteract alcohol’s effects? Better yet, how can you take proactive steps to ensure alcohol doesn’t spoil the holidays? Here are some tips to help you and your loved ones and friends remain sober and safe this holiday season.

Plan ahead – If you know you’re going to a party or get-together where alcohol will be served and that you will be drinking, don’t take unnecessary chances with your life or someone else’s by driving afterwards. The smart choice is to arrange for another to drive you home, or take a taxi, bus, train or other mode of transportation.

Even though you may think you’re perfectly capable of being behind the wheel, your decision-making abilities and critical driving skills are adversely affected long before you typically look or act intoxicated. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), alcohol’s effects sneak up on a person quickly and, as a consequence of more alcohol consumed, reaction time slows, behavior changes are noticeable, including aggressiveness. Continuing to drink causes drinkers to become sleepy, sometimes passing out.

Pace yourself – Just because you’ve designated a sober driver also doesn’t mean that the sensible choice is to let it all rip and drink until you’re drunk. Besides risking some potentially-embarrassing behavior that you won’t remember the next day, any alcohol that remains in your system and the headaches and disorientation that accompany hangovers will make you feel sluggish and unfocused the morning after.

Bottom line: if you are going to drink, do so with the full knowledge of what constitutes a standard drink and make sure you don’t drink more than one each hour.

Use nonalcoholic “spacers” – No one is paying any attention to what you’re drinking, not really. They’re likely too busy filling their own glass and socializing. A good strategy is to switch to something other than alcohol every other drink. Make it water, tonic or cranberry juice or soda.

In addition, hold onto your glass and don’t allow anyone else to refill your drink. This way, you can control what goes into your glass and monitor your alcoholic intake in the process.

Coffee won’t sober you up – This myth seems to persist despite all scientific evidence to the contrary. While downing several cups of coffee may stave off drowsiness to a certain extent, it won’t do any good to combat the effects of alcohol on decision-making or coordination. The simple truth is that the human body requires time to metabolize alcohol before it can return to normal. There are no quick fixes or cures for drinking too much alcohol. Only time will do that.



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