Whether you’re hosting a party or out celebrating with friends during the holiday season, you may find yourself in an awkward situation — recognizing that one of your friends has had too much alcohol to drink.  

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Some people may be tempted to ignore a friend’s impaired behavior — but preventing them from getting behind the wheel could be one of the most important decisions you make not only for them, but others on the road as well.  

However, it’s not always easy. Having a plan for how you might handle this social dilemma can reduce the uncertainty and help ensure everyone stays safe. 

Signs your friend had too much to drink

Alcohol impairment occurs when a person’s mental control, judgment or physical ability is impacted by the consumption of alcohol. Drinking too much at once or imbibing too quickly can result in impairment and increase the risk of harm.  

Signs of alcohol impairment may include:

  • Exaggerated behavior.
  • Lowered alertness.
  • Release of inhibition.
  • Poor balance.
  • Slurred speech.
  • Decreased coordination while doing simple activities like walking, eating or even putting on a coat.  

Keep calm and focus on safety 

If you’ve noticed someone with these symptoms during a holiday party or celebration, consider what you can do to prevent them from getting behind the wheel of a car and potentially injuring — or killing — themselves or another person. 

Here are some ways to react: 

  • Using a calm tone, suggest to the impaired person that they have had too much to drink and that it would be easier and safer for someone else to drive. 
  • Take the first step to help them get home. Call a taxi or request a ride-hailing service like Uber or Lyft. If a sober friend is headed in the same direction, ask if they can give the impaired person a ride home. 
  • If you feel comfortable having the person stay overnight at your house, suggest a sleepover, and let them drive home when they are sober. 
  • Be non-confrontational. Make it sound like you are helping them get home rather than embarrassing them for drinking too much. If possible, avoid discussing the ride home in front of other people.  
  • If a good friend, spouse or significant other has become impaired but still insists on driving, tell them you will not go with them. Call someone else for a ride, walk or use a ride-hailing service. 
  • If you don’t know the impaired person, speak to their friends or significant other. Ask them to persuade their loved one to hand over the keys.  

How to host responsibly

As the host, you can avoid some of the above situations by requiring your guests to give up their keys when they arrive. Let them know: 

  • They will not be allowed to drive if they get intoxicated.
  • They will be given an alternative way to get home, such as from another person or a ride-hailing service, to keep them safe. 
  • They can stay over at your home and then drive home when they are no longer impaired.

Nobody wants to ruin a good time, especially during the holidays. You can help prevent a tragedy before it happens by having a plan to help others get home safely.  What better gift is there?