MADD encourages safety when planning summer parties

By Abby Morris
Star Staff
amorris@starhq.com
As friends and families get together to share part of the summer months with one another, many may decide to include alcoholic beverages with their celebrations.
As a host, the individual holding the get together has not only the responsibility to insure that their guests have fun, but that person has other responsibilities as well. "Obviously you are hosting a party and there are people there you care about and not only do you want them to have a good time but you want them to get home safely as well," said Nancy Denning, state executive director of MADD Tennessee.
In years gone by, the social responsibility of a host entailed compiling a guest list and preparing a menu. Now, the responsibilities of a host include deciding whether or not to serve alcohol and if that decision is yes, then to assess how guest will get home as well as planning for other aspects related to the safe consumption of alcohol.
"Be careful about the amount of alcohol you are serving and try to monitor how much people are drinking," Denning said.
Another tip Denning offered to those deciding to serve alcohol at gatherings is to have plenty of non-alcoholic drinks at the party as well as plenty of food so party-goers are not drinking on an empty stomach.
Planning lots of activities -- such as games -- is also a good idea for parties where alcohol is being consumed because it takes the focus off of drinking, according to a booklet published by MADD titled "Safe Party Guide," which is available on-line at www.madd.org.
In addition to planning the actual party, hosts should also remember some basic common sense advice as well. "Stop serving alcohol at least one hour to 90 minutes before the party is supposed to end," Denning recommended. "Never serve alcohol to a minor and never serve someone you think is already intoxicated."
According to state law, a person is legally intoxicated when their blood alcohol content is 0.08 percent. "The average 175 pound man would have to consume four drinks in one hour on an empty stomach to reach the 0.08 level," Denning said. "For the average 130 pound woman it is three drinks under the same conditions." A "drink" is defined as a 12-ounce beer, a 12-ounce wine cooler, a 5-ounce glass of wine or one-and-a-half ounces of 80-proof distilled liquor, according to MADD.
Denning strongly advised that party hosts keep in mind that "alcohol affects everyone differently" when trying to determine whether a person is impaired. "Some people can handle two drinks and other people cannot," she said.
The summer months can also have an affect on the way a person reacts to alcohol. "With the hot weather, people tend to be more dehydrated which means that the alcohol will affect them more severely," Denning said.
Perhaps the most important thing for a party host to remember is to make sure that anyone who will be consuming alcohol at the party has a designated driver or an alternate means of transportation, Denning said. MADD's Safe Party Guide suggests that if hosts feel that a person has had too much to drink, then he or she should offer their guest a place to stay, secure them another ride with a sober driver or should offer to call them a cab.
"If you are the host you have to take that responsibility (to stop someone from driving after drinking)," Denning said. "Be honest, but firm, and make sure that person knows you are approaching them out of concern and out of love."
According to information from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 17,400 people were killed in alcohol related traffic crashes in the 2002 -- an average of one every half-hour.