For a lot of Americans, the plan is essentially to drink their way into the new year. It’s not just about staying up until the ball drops on January 1. It’s about already feeling buzzed after hours of drinking at the tail end of the previous year. And then, for many, the party doesn’t stop until the early hours of the next morning.
What does this mentality mean in the United States? For one thing, it does mean there is a greater chance of getting pulled over for drunk driving. After the clock hits midnight, people start heading home from bars and house parties in droves. Some use designated drivers or cabs, but many do not. Both DUI arrests and accidents are common.
This trend isn’t just confined to the New Year’s Eve parties themselves. The entire holiday season leads to more driving. The AAA tracks these statistics, and they say that around 95 million people drive for the holidays from Christmas to New Year’s.
The United States does not use public transportation as much as other countries. We value our freedom to drive when and where we choose. Most people own at least one car. When the holidays hit, traffic levels go up notably.
This is important because drinking is simply a part of the holidays for many people. They drink at family gatherings and office parties. They go to the bar with their friends. They drink special holiday drinks — spiked eggnog, for instance — at home. When both drinking and driving increase during the same season, it’s clear that DUI arrests also become more common.
Drinking as a tradition
When looking at New Year’s Eve specifically, you know that drinking is accepted and often expected, but the reality is that it goes even farther than that. It’s a tradition. Champagne, especially, gets consumed at midnight. Thousands and thousands of bottles get opened at 12 a.m. all over the country.
Since the 1800s, champagne producers have specifically marketed it as a drink you should have during a celebration. And everyone bought in. More than 100 years later, we take it in stride. We expect champagne because marketing companies told us we should expect champagne.
Naturally, though, having a special drink at midnight is a risk. If you’re planning to drive home, drinking one more glass right before you head for the car makes it more likely you’ll get arrested for driving under the influence.
Society, culture, tradition and marketing: They’ve all conspired to put you at risk as the new year begins. If you do find yourself facing charges, make sure you know what legal defense options you have.