For almost a quarter of a century, I’ve been trying to keep communities safe. I’m not in law enforcement. I come from a family of firefighters but never worked in the fire department. I’m not a medic either. Instead, through my work in alcohol responsibility for a major brewer, I’ve spent decades promoting responsible drinking.
I’ve stood on street corners in subzero temperatures and put thousands of intoxicated people in cabs. On one New Year’s Eve in Denver, I wondered if I saw more intoxicated people than the bartenders that night. The one thing I was certain about, though I didn’t have scientific data to prove it, is that we were making the roads safer by keeping drunken people from driving. Experiences like that have given me a lot of insight into how to talk to people about drinking responsibly and planning for a safe ride home.
With Halloween around the corner, that insight is more valuable than ever.
Halloween has exploded in popularity. According to the National Retail Federation, Halloween spending in the U.S. for 2018 is set to reach a record $9 billion, with 175 million Americans planning to participate.
A monster amount of that money is going toward adult parties and adult beverages such as beer. House parties and themed bar events are a common part of the Halloween landscape, putting the night firmly on the calendar for alcohol responsibility reminders.
A lot of people think of Thanksgiving as kicking off the holiday season, but it really starts around Halloween.
For many people, holidays mean having a good time with friends at parties, bars and clubs — and brands are coming up with really smart ways to reach out to and cater for them. Companies like Black Box Wines have experimented with special packaging that looks good with Halloween décor. The High Line Hotel in New York City is getting people in the holiday mood by offering custom pumpkin carving alongside a bottle of champagne. Some liqueurs are offering pumpkin spice flavors for Halloween, and it’s not Halloween or fall without the annual boom in pumpkin beers.
But with so many ways to have a good time, alcohol brands need to also be a part of helping consumers enjoy the night responsibly.
As part of our work, Molson Coors has joined other beer companies such asAnheuser-Busch InBev, Carlsberg and Heineken in supporting local and national programs to train servers on how to stop serving customers who have reached or passed their limit. Telling someone it’s time to stop when they’re still having a good time can be difficult for hospitality and retail workers alike, but training programs like TIPS make it easier by giving bartenders and servers skills at intervening when their customers’ impairment is getting unsafe.
But while supporting programs in licensed spaces is something that alcohol brands can manage and monitor, what about people who prefer to host festivities in their homes? For me, this is where most irresponsible drinking can happen during the holidays.
It’s easy to forget about responsible drinking when you’re having fun with your friends. But it’s something all hosts should keep in mind. There are simple steps they can take to make sure everyone has a good time responsibly.
These include providing plenty of snacks along with low- and fun no-alcohol options, such as fruit punch labeled as Nonalcoholic Witch’s Brew Punch and no-alcohol beers. The trick is to make the party about the people — not the drinking.
Another thing hosts can do is organize rides for their friends. In fact, no matter what kind of Halloween event you’re attending, for a responsible holiday, stay away from the wheel if you’re unsafe to drive home.
Halloween has some of the worst drunken driving statistics of any holiday. In 2015, Halloween recorded the most drunken driving deaths of U.S. holidays. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration research shows that 43 percent of fatal crashes on Halloween involve a drunken driver, as do 26 percent of pedestrian deaths on Halloween.
With the proliferation of alternative ride services available now, it’s easier than ever to stay safe and still have a good time.
In fact, ride services are something several brewers are taking advantage of to help people have fun responsibly. Molson Coors has a national partnership with Uber, while in Denmark, Carlsberg sponsors a ride program for cyclists who have gone over their limit. And, along with Corona and other industry brands, we’re also a sponsor of the Washington Regional Alcohol Program’s Sober Ride campaign, which is offering free rides up to $15 on Halloween.
Drunken driving is 100 percent preventable. If there’s one responsibility message for the holidays, it’s this: Please plan ahead on how you’re going to get home.
Sure, Halloween is a holiday and it’s all about having a scary good time with good friends. But that doesn’t mean it has to be irresponsible.
If everyone commits to drinking responsibly this holiday, then the only scary thing about this Halloween will be the costumes and haunted houses.
Bill Young is global senior director of alcohol policy at Molson Coors. Young has a 30-plus year career in college and professional sports, state government and the beer industry. In his role with one of the world’s largest brewers, he works daily with colleagues throughout the alcohol industry to reduce harmful consumption of alcohol around the world.