Everywhere you go during the holiday season, you're likely going to be encouraged to eat, drink, and be merry. However, if that merriment involves any alcohol, you can end up in a decidedly non-festive atmosphere: jail. Here are some quick tips to avoid a holiday season DUI.
1.) Be conscious of the fact that patrols are more frequent and on alert.
Police officers know that holiday parties abound, so they're especially on the lookout for erratic driving during the whole holiday season. DUI-related traffic stops on Christmas Eve alone increase by about 33%. Keeping in mind that you don't have to be legally intoxicated in order to be arrested for a DUI—you just have to have some alcohol in your system and show signs that it is affecting your ability to drive safely—the smartest thing to do is to not drink and drive at all. Get a designated driver, call a cab or ridesharing service, or stay where you're at for the night if you happen to be among friends.
2.) Use an app or a portable breathalyzer to determine your ability to drive.
There are numerous apps you can download to your phone that can help you keep yourself out of trouble. DrinkTracker will help you keep a running tally of what your potential blood alcohol content (BAC) is, factoring in your age, height, and weight. All you have to do is update it with each additional drink. There are also numerous portable breathalyzers on the market, similar to what the police use, that can help you estimate your BAC. It's important to keep in mind, however, that these only provide an estimate—they won't hold up in court if you try to use them as a DUI defense down the line. Even the best breathalyzer can make an error, and an app like DrinkTracker can't account for individual tolerances. A frequent drinker isn't going to be as quickly impaired as someone that only imbibes during the holidays.
3.) Do what you can to minimize potential problems.
Ideally, you want to avoid being pulled over in the first place. Since police are on the alert around the holidays, they may not be looking for just erratic driving as an excuse to pull you over and pepper you with questions about where you've been and what you've been drinking. Make sure that your license plate has the proper tags, that your car's lights (including brake lights) are all operational, and that there are no other obvious reasons that would give an officer an excuse to pull you over. Keep your hands on the wheel, ignore your phone, and don't fumble with the radio even if it is the fortieth time you've heard the same Christmas song that day. Any small distraction could cause you to veer over the yellow line, take a turn too wide, or slide through a stop sign. That's all an officer needs to pull you over and assert probable cause for a DUI investigation.
Don't ever get behind the wheel if you think there's the slightest chance that you're still feeling the effects of the eggnog you had with dinner. However, if you do run into a problem, talk to an attorney who handles DUI cases at a law firm like the Steven T. Fox Law Firm in your area right away.