In the midst of New Year’s Eve celebrations, the last thing you want is an “unanticipated event.” No matter what plans you have in store, here’s how to enjoy New Year’s Eve without the hassles of unexpected surprises.

Group fun is safe fun. If you’re going to a party or heading to a public event, make plans to arrive and leave with a group. A lot can happen on New Year’s Eve, and you want to ensure that you, your friends and family are safe. Share your plans for the night with others, and communicate your whereabouts if plans change.

Don’t drink and drive. Jan. 1 is tied with July 4 in recording the highest percentage of traffic deaths related to alcohol, according to data from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Before you celebrate, select a designated driver, or plan to take a cab, Uber or Lyft. Beware of other drunk drivers, and always wear your seatbelt, as driver or passenger!

If you drink, pace yourself. It’s a proven fact that our bodies absorb alcohol faster than we metabolize (get rid of) it. So, the faster we drink, the more time alcohol’s toxins work their “magic” on our bodies (and produce those rotten hangovers). Mitigate the effects; drink no more than one per hour. Learn the difference in the amounts of the kinds of alcoholic drinks. One beer is not equal to six shots (12 oz. beer = 4-5 oz. of wine = 1.5 oz. of hard liquor). When drinking, sip slowly. Melted ice will dilute your drink, so order it on-the-rocks. Add juices – if practical – to help dilute the alcohol.

Know what to mix, and what not to mix. Stick with the same drink all night. Even though mixing drinks does NOT cause greater intoxication, it DOES make people sicker and gives them  worse “morning after” hangovers. Light liquors (vodka, gin, clear tequila) contain fewer toxins. Dark liquors have higher concentrations, which make hangovers more severe. Carbonated mixers speed up the rate of absorption in the blood.

Alternate alcoholic drinks with water. Alcohol is a diuretic: the more you drink, the more you must urinate. More frequent urination leads to dehydration. Dehydration causes hangover symptoms, such as headaches and dizziness. Aim to drink at least one large glass of water as you drink alcohol. This will also keep you from getting too drunk.

Eat before you drink, and snack while you drink. Never drink on an empty stomach. Eat a full meal before drinking. And keep snacking throughout the evening. Eating as you drink slows down alcohol absorption in your digestive tract, so the alcohol has more time to metabolize in the body. Foods high in protein, such as cheese, meat, and nuts, can also help mitigate the effects of alcohol as you drink responsibly. Fatty carbs work well but are not as healthy. And take it easy on the salty snacks, as they can make you drink more.

Myth: Coffee sobers you up. Many believe coffee sobers you up and the caffeine will speed up alcohol’s metabolism. Hence, many drink a quick cup of coffee before hitting the road. Bad news though: this is a MYTH. Coffee may help you wake up, but it won’t sober you up. Time is the only “cure.” If you need to get home and don’t have time to sober up, get a ride from a sober driver or call a cab. You don’t want to risk getting into an accident and hurting yourself or someone else.

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