Whether you’re going to the local bar, a night club or even a friend’s for a game night, there’s a good chance drugs or alcohol may be present. Because of this, the most important part of the night is not figuring out what to wear, what to drink or what games to play — instead, it’s knowing how to get home safely after drinking.
The legal drinking age is 21 in the United States; when you reach this age, it is still illegal to drive with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 or higher. If you have a BAC between .08 and 0.4, you are considered “very impaired.” If you have above a 0.4 BAC, you are at risk for serious complications. While these numbers are good to know, many people have no way of knowing what their limit is and what their BAC might be during a night out. Some monitors are available online, but the accuracy can vary widely, making you believe you’re safe when you are not.
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Tips for Staying Safe
In all honesty, it’s better to be safe than sorry and not drive after drinking. This requires some pre-planning on how you’re going to get home, but with these tips, planning and getting home safely will be a breeze.
Have a Designated Driver
If you’re going out with a group of friends, the easiest way to ensure you get home safe is to have a designated driver, or DD. This is one person in the group who agrees not to drink so they can stay sober and drive everyone back home. The biggest benefit of having a DD is that it’s cheap! Depending on how far the destination is, the DD might want help to pay for gas, but other than that, it’s free of charge.
Another benefit is that you know and trust the person. Not only will you be with them throughout the night to ensure they don’t drink, but you can also trust them to drive you home and not take any detours. In order to be fair, it is important to not take advantage of one person in the friend group and make them DD every time. Instead, it’s best to rotate around the friend group every time a DD is needed. This will keep it a fair, safe way to make it home.
Have a Friend Pick You Up
If everyone plans on drinking and a DD is not available, another option is to have someone sober be the pick-up person. When I was in college, I was a member of Kappa Kappa Gamma. There were often times other members would offer rides for free or for donation. Many times, the donation was from $2 to $4 and went to a good cause, like the Children’s Miracle Network.
This requires more pre-planning than a DD because you will probably have a set time you will need to leave by. This ensures the person picking you up doesn’t forget or go home for the night. It’s your job to be respectful of this time period and be ready to go when they show up. While it might not be free, you can ensure that your money is going to a good cause and you are getting home safe with someone you know and trust.
Use a Ride-Sharing Service
If you’re looking for a little more freedom to be able to leave when you want, ride-sharing services like Uber or Lyft might be for you. However, this will come at a larger cost than the previous options. The advantage of using one of these services is that you can call it whenever you’d like. You can also add multiple stops so everyone can get home. One disadvantage is the increased cost, but this largely depends on the supply and demand that night. Another disadvantage is safety, since you won’t personally know your driver.
There are measures you can take to ensure you make it home safely. First, you can share your ride with someone. This will allow them to follow where you are and where you are going until the ride ends. Also, when you first approach your expected ride, check the car tags to ensure they match what is on your app. You can also make the driver verify who you are by saying your name before you get in the car.
Finally, don’t use Uber or Lyft alone. If you have to, try being on the phone with someone the entire time. Uber does a background check on all drivers before their first trip. Uber also uses RideCheck, which can tell if the car goes off-course or if a crash may have occurred. If the RideCheck service sends an alert to Uber, they will contact you and provide resources to help. Follow these tips and research the safety of the app before riding and you can ensure you’ll get home safe.
Use Public Transportation
Depending on where you are and where you’re trying to go, I would consider local transport. This could be the city bus system, metro or subway. This is another cheap option, but it also requires some pre-planning. If you plan on using these options, make sure you know which routes to take and purchase any tickets beforehand. Traveling with a group adds security, but make sure everyone gets on the right bus or train. If you are a student who lives near campus, check your school to see if night transportation is an option. As a recent graduate, I know Florida State University has the “Nite Nole” that runs from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. in the fall and spring. This is already included in tuition and is safe for students.
One final option is to stay where you are or walk. While you can’t stay the night at the bar, you can stay on your friend’s couch. If it’s a game night at your friend’s house, ask in advance if you can stay over. If you’re going out with a group and one person lives close, you can walk. This is the highest risk due to the safety factor, but some ways to alleviate this include having someone track you or staying in a group. Also, wear some reflective clothes and use flashlights. This option is only suggested if you are only walking a very short distance.
It’s Never Worth the Risk
Driving under the influence is never safe and never okay. You put not only your own life at risk, but also the lives of others. Fortunately, these options can help prevent you from getting behind the wheel. Some cost money and require a little pre-planning, but compared to the cost of a DUI or the loss of someone’s life, it will be worth it. Your options include having a designated driver, having a pick-up person, using ride-sharing services, using local transportation, walking or staying the night. Use one of these next time to stop yourself from driving under the influence. Stay safe, have fun and be smart.
Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.