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Martinsville, Virginia 24115
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Throw a safe party to celebrate new year

Monday, December 31, 2012

By PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin Staff Writer

Planning on hosting a New Year’s Eve party? Party hosts are responsible for making sure the event is not only fun, but safe, according to the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.

Although parents have the right to provide alcohol to their own children in their own home, it is illegal to purchase, aid and abet or give alcohol to other minors. Do not allow anyone younger than 21 years of age to consume alcoholic beverages at your party, and do not allow persons of legal age to provide alcoholic beverages to anyone underage, according to the Virginia ABC website. Violating any of these laws can result in the conviction of a Class 1 misdemeanor, which carries a fine of up to $2,500 and/or up to one year in jail.

As the host of a party or event, you may be held responsible for the actions of your guests. The party host could face civil liability if either a partygoer is hurt or a third person is injured due to alcohol impairment, according to the ABC website.

Martinsville Commonwealth’s Attorney Joan Ziglar said the laws dealing with whether the provider of alcohol is responsible for the actions of the recipient are “very fact specific.” In some cases, the providers of alcohol have found not to be responsible, but that is not always the case, she said.

According to the ABC website, one does not have to be heavily intoxicated to be impaired. Driving skills and abilities can be impaired with the first drink. Virginia’s Zero Tolerance Law makes driving after having consumed almost any amount of alcohol a serious criminal offense for drivers under the age of 21.

The website gives these tips for serving responsibly:

• Put yourself in the mind of a non-drinker. Don’t force drinks on your guests or rush to refill their glasses right away. Some guests may accept drinks they don’t want in order to avoid appearing rude.

• Always serve food, especially high-protein foods such as cheese and meats that stay in the stomach longer, slowing down the absorption of alcohol into the bloodstream. Note: Although food causes alcohol to be digested more slowly, it has no effect on the pace alcohol leaves your system.

• Don’t mix alcohol with drugs. Both legal and illegal drugs may interact with alcohol. Be careful not to take even aspirin before, during or shortly after drinking.

• Avoid mixing alcohol with carbonated beverages. Carbonation accelerates the effects of alcohol in the body.

• Always have non-alcoholic drinks available for guests, especially juices, water or tea.

• Stop serving alcohol two hours before the party is over, but continue serving non-alcoholic drinks and food. For most people, this two-hour wait will not be enough time to clear all the alcohol from their bodies. Therefore, be sure to find safe rides home via taxis or designated drivers.

• Don’t let people drink and drive. Car-pooling and cabs can save lives. It’s the responsibility of everyone (especially the host of the party) to stop drinkers from driving. If necessary, take away the car keys and invite guests to spend the night.

• Have jiggers or self-measuring, one-ounce bottle spouts at the bar to measure alcohol for mixed drinks. Guessing the amount of alcohol for drinks can lead to excessive drinking.

• Be careful whom you invite. If you invite good friends who are mature social drinkers, you shouldn’t have a problem throwing a safe and fun party. If you invite strangers or people who are not responsible around alcohol, you are opening the door for trouble.

“Everybody has a moral obligation to consider the safety of others out on the street,” said Martinsville Police Chief Mike Rogers.

He said people celebrating should do one of these things: “Don’t drink, have a designated driver, call a cab or stay where you are. One of the most tragic things that can happen to a person is having an accident where they take a life of someone else and have to live with that the rest of their life.”

Mike Pashley, owner/manager of Wild Magnolia, said that business, as a regular practice, calls cabs for customers who shouldn’t drive home or does “pretty much whatever we can to get them home.”

According to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles website, alcohol is absorbed directly through the walls of the stomach and the small intestine. It goes into the bloodstream, and travels throughout the body and to the brain. Alcohol is quickly absorbed and can be measured within 30 to 70 minutes after a person has had a drink.

A blood alcohol content (BAC) as low as .03 percent adversely affects driving ability. As little as one drink on an empty stomach can impair your ability to drive safely. A driver with a BAC of 0.15 is more than 300 times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash.

A news release on the Virginia State Police website says last year 245 people were killed and 5,465 others were injured in alcohol-related crashes in Virginia. Today through January 2013, Virginia State Police is participating in sobriety checkpoints and roving enforcement patrols as part of the DUI enforcement effort associated with Checkpoint Strikeforce.


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