As the biggest party night of the year, New Year’s Eve is as rife with mirth as it is with the possibility of danger. Make no mistake, there’s no harm in tying one on in the name of celebration just as long as you ensure you have the basics of safety covered.
So before you head out to ring in 2017, take these expert tips into consideration.
#1 Be safe: Plan a ride
According to a 2015 WHO Global Status Report on Road Safety, Canada ranks number one in alcohol-related crash deaths among high-income countries. Equally dispiriting is the fact that in 2013, the Ontario Ministry of Transportation reported 454 people were injured in alcohol or drug impaired driving collisions during the holiday season alone.
“The holiday season is a busy time, but it’s important to take a few minutes to plan ahead,” says Patricia Hynes-Coates, president of MADD Canada. “There are all kinds of options you can avail yourself of, from public transit and arranging for a designated driver to booking a taxi or an Uber ahead of time.”
The onus doesn’t lie solely on the party attendee, either. Hynes-Coates points out that party hosts can be sued if one of their guests drives home drunk, so she says to make sure there are non-alcoholic beverages and food on hand to help people pace themselves.
“Serve the drinks yourself, so you know your guests aren’t over-drinking,” she says. “And collect everyone’s car keys as they come in, put them in a spot where they can be locked away and only hand them back if the person is safe to drive.”
She also says hosts should keep their own drinking in check to be able to intervene in case of potential problems.
#2 Be safe: Drink responsibly
Pace yourself between drinks to avoid getting too drunk too fast. This isn’t just sage advice for New Year’s Eve, but a rule that should be applied in the long term, too.
The Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse links average long-term alcohol use (as few as one or two drinks per day) to various cancers, including mouth, breast and liver, and health conditions like high blood pressure, stroke and irregular heartbeat. In the case of consuming a week’s worth of allotted alcohol in one night (for women that equals 10 drinks, for men it’s 15), it is estimated that the potential risks increase with every drink consumed.
Intersperse every alcoholic beverage, then, with a non-alcoholic one and don’t drink on an empty stomach. The problem with doing the latter is that the alcohol consumed will go directly into the bloodstream and travel throughout the body, including to the kidneys, liver and brain.
“Once the alcohol hits the brain, it immediately starts affecting the brain’s ability to control behaviour and bodily functions,” Total DUI, a Chicago-based legal firm that specializes in drunk driving cases, said to Medical Daily.
Also, always keep an eye on your drink, don’t take drinks from strangers and don’t leave your drink unattended. If you’re itching to hit the dance floor, ditch your drink. It’s worth it to avoid the possibility of having someone spike it.
#3 Be safe: Don’t drink and walk
Yes, that’s right: walk. An Injury Prevention report discovered that Jan. 1 is the deadliest day for pedestrians.
In a Freakonomics Radio podcast, Steve Levitt, an economics professor at the University of Chicago, compared impaired driving with impaired walking and the realities are staggering.
“For every mile walked drunk, it turns out to be eight times more dangerous than the mile driven drunk,” he said. “To put it simply, if you need to walk a mile from a party to your home, you’re eight times more likely to die doing that than if you jump behind the wheel and drive your car that same mile.”
In the same podcast, Thomas Esposito, a trauma surgeon at Loyola University Health System in Illinois, said there is a considerable spike in pedestrian injuries at this time of year.
“I’d rather work New Year’s Eve than New Year’s Day, because a lot of the time on New Year’s Day, that’s when people start to realize someone’s missing,” he said. “And then they find them on the bottom of the stairs or the side of the road, injured.”
Of course, this isn’t an argument in favour of driving drunk, but it is something to keep in mind if you think walking home at the end of the evening is a safe plan. Instead, make sure you have a sober friend with you or hop into a cab.
#4 Be safe: Limit your social media use
It’s tempting to express excitement about a big night on social media, but unless your accounts are private, you’re essentially sending a message to countless strangers telling them where you’ll be.
“If you’re at a bar or a restaurant and you post it on social media, people will know your whereabouts and be able to find you quickly,” says Constable Caroline de Kloet, a media relations officer with the Toronto Police Service. “Before you know it, a stranger can come up to you and pretend to know you through one of your other social media contacts. Being able to scroll through your Twitter, Instagram or Facebook account will give them a lot of information about you.”
She also points out that once something makes it to the internet, it’s there forever.
“If you’re posting things online about partying, and posting pictures with alcohol or drugs, you have to be aware that the internet never forgets,” de Kloet says.
In other words, be wise about what you post to social media if you’re looking to let loose on New Year’s Eve. It could save more than just your professional reputation.