The party season is upon us - a time of celebration, fun and catching up with family and friends - but, sadly, sometimes the highs can soon turn into lows if the party spirit gets the upper hand. For some people, letting their hair down may lead to a round of binge drinking throughout the festive period.
As well as the health consequences, this can also lead to people losing their inhibitions and taking more risks with their personal safety leaving themselves vulnerable to becoming a victim of violence or sexual offences for example, or making the mistake of drink driving.
Our tips could help prevent your night from ending badly.
Getting there and back
- Plan your journey to and from home and if you get a taxi or minicab, make sure it's licensed.
- Don't travel with a driver who has drunk alcohol or who may be under the influence of drugs.
- If you're planning to drink alcohol, plan how to get home without driving: options include agreeing on a designated driver, getting details of a licensed taxi firm, or finding out about public transport routes and times.
- Make sure somebody knows where you are going and what time you will be home.
- Always carry your bag close to you with the clasp facing inwards. Keep your house keys in your pocket and if someone grabs your bag let it go.
- Remember to keep hold of your bags and phone in restaurants and pubs.
- If you think someone is following you, check by crossing the street - more than once if necessary - to see if they follow. If you are still worried, get to the nearest place where there are other people - a pub or anywhere with a lot of lights on and call the police on 101.
- Consider carefully whether to leave a pub, club or party with somebody you have just met.
- Don't take short-cuts through dark alleys, parks or across waste ground.
- Use routes that are well lit, and walk facing the traffic.
- If you're walking home on a cold night make sure you're dressed to keep warm.
While you are out
- Make sure that your drink isn't left unattended.
- If someone offers to buy you a drink, only accept if you know you can trust them.
- Communal drinks such as punch bowls can easily be spiked. It's not always possible to know what's been mixed into these drinks, so stick to drinks that aren't shared.
- If you begin to feel drunk after fewer drinks than normal, seek help from a trusted friend or management at the club/pub/licensed premises.
- When you are out, keep your phone out of sight. If your phone is stolen or lost, call your network to get your phone blocked.
- Think before you offer an alcoholic drink to someone you know is planning to drive; you can help reduce the number of people who are killed and injured every year by drink driving.
Don't drink and drive
While the majority of people would not consider consuming any alcoholic drinks before driving, research by the Department for Transport found that 1 in 10 people would consider having 2 or more drinks before they get behind the wheel. To highlight the dangers of drink driving, the Department for Transport has launched its THINK! campaign to encourage everyone to think before drinking and driving and make people aware that even a small number of drinks before driving increase the chance of being in a fatal collision.
Road Safety Minister Andrew Jones said: “Drivers know that drink driving is wrong. It can destroy families and ruin lives. Yet some irresponsible drivers still take the risk and get behind the wheel when they shouldn’t. Over the past 30 years drink drive deaths have fallen significantly but every death or serious injury is one too many. The best way for drivers to keep themselves and other road users safe is simple: don’t drink and drive.”
For UK drivers, there are strict alcohol limits in breath, blood and urine. However, it is not possible to say how much alcohol you can drink while staying below the limit. The way alcohol affects you depends on:
- Your weight, age, sex and metabolism.
- The type and amount of alcohol you're drinking.
- What you've eaten recently.
- Your stress levels at the time.
So if you're driving, it's better to have none for the road.
There are strict penalties if you are convicted of drink driving, including:
- A minimum 12 month driving ban.
- A criminal record.
- A fine of up to £5,000.
- An endorsement on your licence for 11 years.
However, the personal consequences of being caught drink driving can impact on your life in other ways, including:
- Increased car insurance costs.
- Losing your job.
- The shame of having a criminal record.
- Losing your independence.
- Trouble getting into countries such as the USA.
It is estimated that a drink driving conviction can cost from £20,000 to £50,000 as a result of fines, solicitors' fees, increased car insurance costs and impacts on employment.
- Beware the morning after: you could still be over the limit the day after drinking. Sleep, coffee and cold showers don't help you to sober up – time is the only way to get alcohol out of your system.
- There is no excuse for drink driving: alcohol affects everybody's driving for the worse. It creates a feeling of overconfidence, makes judging speed and distance more difficult, and slows your reactions so that it takes longer to stop.
'Only going down the road' is not an excuse: a large proportion of all drink drive crashes occur within three miles of the start of the journey.