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Social Host Liability: Are You Liable If Your Guests Get Caught Driving Drunk?

Published December 23, 2013 by Scott Gottlieb, Injury Law Attorney
Drunk driving

New Year’s Eve, parties and drinking can be a deadly trio when someone who has had too much to drink gets behind the wheel. If you’re hosting a party, you should always be conscious of your guests’ safety. However, are you liable if your guests get caught driving drunk or injure someone?

New York Social Host Liability Law.

New York does not recognize social host liability other than for a few exceptions regarding minors. While that may mean you’re not legally liable for your guests’ safety, it’s important to take whatever steps you can to ensure their safety before the party and after the ball drops.

Steps to Take Before the Party to Avoid Drunk Driving.

Social hosts can take the following steps to keep their guests from leaving the party with a blood alcohol content (BAC) level over New York’s .08 legal limit, such as:

  • Serving food throughout the party. Drinking on an empty stomach is never a good idea. Serving food throughout the party can slow down the absorption of alcohol. However, avoid serving salty, sweet or greasy foods as they tend to increase thirst and consider serving breads, meats and cheeses instead.
  • Serving drinks in smaller glasses. While it may sound a bit tricky, many people “count” the number of drinks they have at a party to avoid getting intoxicated. Serving drinks in a six ounce glass verses a 12 ounce glass can make a big difference.
  • Avoiding drinking games. Always avoid drinking games and doing shots or shooters. They’re a sure way to increase BAC levels – fast.
  • Limiting “hard” alcohol. Consider limiting the amount of hard alcohol at your party, such as vodka, whiskey and gin, as they have higher alcohol contents.
  • Putting soft drinks and water in plain view. Sometimes party guests just want something to drink or hold in their hands when socializing. Putting soft drinks and water in plain view provides them with an alternative.
  • Brewing some coffee. Brewing a pot of coffee towards the end of the evening is a gentle reminder to guests that it’s time to sober up, and continuing to socialize over coffee allows drivers more time to do just that.

Steps to Take Once the Ball Drops.

Always let guests who have had a few too many know that they do not have to drive home drunk. Make sure you’ve got some options available, such as staying over at your house, having someone else give them a ride home (and back again the next day to get their car) or call one of the many cab companies in Binghamton, such as:

  • University Cab, 607-797-5555
  • Citi Transport, 607-723-7433
  • Triple Cities Taxi, 607-724-8294
  • VIP Taxi, 607-348-3963
  • Owl Taxicab Services, 607-722-3447

Be Careful, Be Safe & Be Smart

Be careful and safe this holiday season whether you are hosting a party or a guest at someone else’s party. While you can avoid causing a drunk driving accident, you cannot control the behavior of other drivers who fail to heed the warnings against drunk driving.

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