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New Year’s Eve: What You Ought to Know

Be aware of what alcohol does to your body, and make plans to avoid drinking and driving.

It’s the end of the 2012 and the start of 2013, and parties are one of the most popular ways to send out the old and ring in the new year.

But it also can be a dangerous time on the nation’s roadways, which is why Geneva-area police departments typically beef up patrols on the holiday in an attempt to head off potentially deadly results of mixing drinking and driving.

Drinking and driving carries consequences, but so does drinking even if you are not driving.

Even a small amount of alcohol can affect your equilibrium, but it also can play on your emotions, making you giggle, weep, angry. It also can impair your judgment, leading you to make decisions you may regret in the morning.

But alcohol affects the whole body, even in the smallest of doses, writes Sarah Klein, in an article for the Huffington Post, The Effects of Alcohol on the Body. Klein acknowledges that while moderate drinking does seem to have benefits, New Year’s Eve tends to draw out the excessive kind of drinking that is not considered healthy.

Alcohol-related car accidents kill twice to three times as many people during the Christmas-New Year holiday period than at any other similar time of the year, according to Klein.

Some of the facts Klein points out:

One drink is considered .6 ounces of pure alcohol, which is the same as about 12 ounces of beer, five ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of hard liquor.

Moderate drinking as a drink a day for women, up to twice that for men.

Binge drinking is categorized as four or more drinks on a single occasion for women and five or more for men.

“Legally drunk” is measured by blood-alcohol content, and in Illinois, if you hit .08, you are considered legally drunk. Your blood-alcohol content is affected by a number of factors beyond how many drinks you have. Those factors can include gender; weight; whether you have recently eaten and, if so, how much and when. There are, however, some general estimates, such as those in the chart that accompanies this story.

Being Responsible

Avoiding drinking and driving — or avoiding drunkenness — is a key to avoiding drunken driving. Appointing a designated driver is another good strategy. But tavern owners and even party hosts may face some liability if a patron or guest leaves drunk and becomes involved in an accident.

Amica Insurance this week offered tips on how to be a responsible party host and help stop drinking and driving. In a release, the company notes that in 2011, drunken driving resulted in 9,878 deaths, a 2.5-percent decrease from 2010, according to Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

Amica Insurance offered these tips from MADD to help host a safe party:

  • Offer nonalcoholic beverages or “mocktails” for those guests who don’t wish to drink alcohol.
  • Use fruit juice or other noncarbonated bases if planning to serve an alcoholic punch. Alcohol is absorbed into the bloodstream faster with a carbonated base.
  • Serve plenty of food to keep guests from drinking on an empty stomach.
  • Serve food that isn’t too salty, which will lead to increased consumption of fluids.
  • Play party games to keep guests entertained. Planned activities make for less active alcohol consumption.
  • Make sure that every group in attendance has designated a driver that is not drinking.
  • Have the phone number of a taxi company for those who need a ride, or offer guests to spend the night on a couch or pull-out bed.

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