MOST OF US are pretty lucky when it comes to imbibing in New York City: Not only do we have about ten million bars (including some of the best drink dens in the country), we don’t have to drive to them. Mass transit provides the opportunity to drink anywhere in the five boroughs and get home without killing anyone. Killing ourselves is another issue. Just because we don’t have to drive, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t drink responsibly. As the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration kicks off its annual awareness campaign to reduce holiday drunk driving around Labor Day and Thanksgiving weekends, it’s important to remember drinking responsibly comes in many forms:
RightRides (rightrides.org) is a five-year-old program offering free, safe, late-night rides home to women, lesbians, gays, transexuals and gender queer individuals. You don’t even have to be hammered to get the ride. The brainchild of Oraia Reid and Consuelo Ruybal, the program is geared to prevent predatory practices that sometimes happen to women and others, particularly late at night or where cabs and mass transit are scarce.
You don’t even have to be hammered to get a ride: Reid says RightRides isn’t a party shuttle, but a safe means of getting home (from work, socializing or otherwise at risk), particularly in areas where gender-based assault and violence are common. “We believe that, regardless of what riders are doing the night they call us, it shouldn’t be a luxury to get home safely.”
Available for 45 nabes throughout four of the boroughs, well-screened volunteers (equipped with ZipCars) will deliver your butt safely. Walking home instead, but not totally comfortable? RightRides can join you for the stroll and make sure you get home unmolested. Donations are welcome via the website to keep everything going.
Create a network of friends and neighbors who can help you out. Trusted ones of course. And hopefully friends you won’t accidentally sleep with on the nights you need the most help. This is particularly important for students and recent graduates moving to the city: The world is your oyster here, but all that partying comes with a price, particularly if you’re here on your own. People you can call to get you home safely (or let you in if you’ve lost your keys. Again.) are more important than you know.
Drink close to home, particularly if you know it’s going to be a big night. The beauty of NYC is the sheer volume of destination bars, clubs and lounges scattered throughout the city. The challenge is that two-hour train ride home when the E is undergoing “service changes.” If the gang is meeting for a long night of drinking, orchestrate it so you wind up a few blocks from su casa.
Savor your drinks, rather than chugging or shooting them. Sure Jaeger bombs are rockin’, but you know what happens every damn time: After a night you’ll regret, you’re faced with a morning you’ll regret. And that’s if you make it home in one piece. Instead check out the alcohol-rich, but slow drinking craft and classic cocktails being offered at places like Rye House, PDT or the Empire Room.
Keep track of how much you’re drinking. Not just the number of glasses, but the size of each glass, which can vary wildly, particularly with martinis and red wine. Alcohol giant Diageo also recommends (on their DrinkIQ site) avoiding top-ups or refreshing the drink, or you’ll lose track quickly.
If you must drive to the party, DON’T DRINK. It’s that simple. According to the NHTSA, DUI arrests among women rose by 28.8% between 1998 and 2007 (and one guesses it continues to rise). Of the 5,432 drivers ages 21 to 34 years old killed in car crashes in 2008, 53% were driving drunk (BACs of .08 or higher). The legal limit in New York and New Jersey is a BAC of .08 percent (though you can also get busted for driving while impaired under that if there is sufficient evidence you can’t handle your vehicle or your liquor). For most people, that’s only a couple of drinks in a one-hour period.
Why risk it? If you’ve been driving, leave your car at the bar or on the street at a friend’s house (make sure and obey all parking regulations). It’ll be there in the morning. While you’re recovering (may we recommend Vita coconut water and Excedrin?).
Though New Yorkers can easily hail a cab or towncar most times, a program called PoundTaxi allows you to call or text #taxi (#8294), and receive the first available cab. You’ll be paying for the cab home (and the text message), but isn’t that better than paying for the evening with your life? The company recently partnered with MADD to promote their “Designated Driver” campaign. Of course, you can also call/text #taxi if you just need a cab, drinking or no. Works on all major carriers, except T-Mobile (figures).
For more hints and tips on responsible drinking, check out the Diageo-sponsored DrinkIQ