Christmas, New Year’s Eve as well as New Year’s Day frequently figures in the top 5 dangerous days to be on the road every year, and with good reason. In the midst of all that merry making, hosts and guests often end up throwing good sense out of the window. However, with as many as 28 states enacting strict Social Host Laws, you may find yourself in serious trouble if the frolicking goes too far.
No, lawmakers are not the new Grinch brigade! In fact, it is easy to understand just how important these laws are when you take a look at the accident statistics for the holiday season.
- Over 40% of all road fatalities occur on Christmas and New Year’s Eve and Day.
- Drivers are 32% more likely to be overly aggressive and even resort to road rage during the holidays.
- New Year’s Day has the highest percentage of on-road fatalities that are linked to drunk driving.
- Almost 45% of all accident related deaths that occur during Christmas and New Year’s can be traced to driving under the influence of alcohol.
And, if anybody has doubts about the efficacy of these laws, here is a bit of information that will change your impression- The enactment of Social Host Laws has brought down the number of drunk-driving fatalities by 5-9%. Moreover, these laws have had a direct impact on the consumption of alcohol and the probability of driving while under the influence of alcohol during the holidays.
In addition to this, Social Host Laws are a crucial weapon against underage drunk driving accidents. Over 30% of underage drivers report getting the 5 or more drinks that put them in an inebriated state at home, while a whopping 70% say that they did not actually buy their booze but got it from somebody.
Actually, only 20% underage drivers who were involved in drunk-driving accidents reported buying their booze. So, increasing the level of responsibility on adults by holding them liable for the misdeeds of minors is bound to be effective.
Can the misdoings of your guests really get you in trouble?
In some states with Social Host Laws, the host is only liable if a minor is furnished or served alcohol by him/her or on premises owned by the individual. However, in the majority of the over 150 counties and cities that have adopted this law, it is applied in a general sense, regardless of the age of the guest.
So, if a guest, who has had one too many drinks at your party or in a party hosted by your renter, is in an accident that results in the death or in injuries to third parties including any passengers in the vehicle driven by the guest, you will be held accountable for such a mishap. The ramifications for the host can include criminal charges as well as civil liabilities.
What can you do to protect yourself?
Whether you are hosting a corporate or personal party, it is imperative to speak with your insurance agent first. Typically, homeowner’s policies do cover you against liquor liability to the tune of $100,000 to $300,000.
However, this is rarely enough as you may very well get sued for millions after an accident, depending on the damage that your inebriated guest has caused. In any case, it is crucial to understand the laws of your state in the matter and to learn about the limitations, exclusions and conditions that apply to this form of coverage.
Being a responsible host is truly the best defense!
If you intend to include booze in your revelries, whether the party is being hosted at your workplace or at home, here are some precautionary measures that you can take to limit your exposure to social host liabilities:
- Get creative with your serving and party ideas: Include plenty of non-drinking activities that are just as much fun whether your guests are completely sober or down a drink or two. Also, before the revelries begin, you could hand out 2 alcohol vouchers; this way your guests will know that you are serious about limiting the alcohol consumption.
- 5. Restrict the flow of alcohol with the right recipes: Instead of throwing open the bar with all its options, prepare a punch or a cocktail that has very little alcohol in it. Make sure that you have just enough for one or two servings for all adult guests. Also ensure that the minors in the party cannot get their hands on the alcoholic beverage.
- Provide ample of non-alcoholic options: Soft drinks, mock tails, coffee, tea and even plain water can help to bring down the level of intoxication. Also, mixing the booze with food lowers the intoxicating effect of alcohol. So, stress more on the hors d’oeuvres and finger foods and less on the wine and other alcoholic drinks.
- Limit the alcohol serving time: Stop serving booze 2-3 hours before the end of the party and shift to non-alcoholic beverages and food.
With a bit of forward thinking and planning, it is possible to have a fun party without setting up the stage for legal trouble in the New Year.