The Truth about “Drink Responsibly”: Enlightenment in an Alcohol Friendly Culture
What makes for a good meal out, or a nice evening at home with friends? More and more people are making socially conscious decisions, aligning their hearts, minds and pocketbooks. In Sonoma County, for example, being in an agriculturally rich part of the world, restaurants that offer local, organic food are gaining in popularity, and specialty food stores are all the rage. Our county also offers a bounty of wines and a robust beer culture has taken hold. Most weekends it’s easy to find an event involving alcohol, and everyone seems to be a wine aficionado. Which brings me to the point of this blog…which is to move the concept of social consciousness into those familiar lands where the chardonnay flows, the pints line up, and shots are taken with abandon, to instill a new sensibility, not for just choosing the right wine to go with your meal, but in making sure everyone gets home safely.
For this message to take hold, a little data is necessary. In California, alcohol involved fatal and injury collisions approached 17,000 in 2010, that’s 46 accidents a day. In Sonoma County alone, there were close to 3,000 driving under the influence (DUI) arrests in that same year. Of those arrested for DUI, the majority end up in Sonoma County’s DUI offender program. Surveys of those participants reveal that three-quarters, 76%, believed they were fit to drive at the time of their arrest. Close to half (45%) of participants in this program report coming from a bar or restaurant, and 40% report coming from home or another person’s home when they were arrested. Over half of those in the program report having up to 4 drinks in the 1-3 hours before driving. So, the take-away point of all this data is that those who drink too much are not the best at cutting themselves off and knowing when not to drive, as the alcohol industry would have us believe with their messages of “drink responsibly.” We must also continue to address the problem from the other side, by making sure those who sell and those who serve alcohol do so responsibly.
For businesses that sell alcohol, we call it Responsible Beverage Service (RBS), and what it means to you, is that you, and your loved ones make it home safely from a night out to dinner, a late night trip to the supermarket, or after visiting a friend. RBS is the practice of selling and serving alcohol lawfully. In the retail world that means checking IDs, not selling to minors, and not serving people who are already intoxicated. Here in Sonoma County, both the cities of Petaluma and Rohnert Park require RBS training for any business that sells alcohol.
But here’s something each of us can do:
Next time you go out,
- observe whether the server is checking IDs
- whether servers are giving the ID a good look
- and, whether someone who’s been drinking quite a bit continues to be served
- let the manager or owner know when you observe good practices!
At home, being a socially conscious host means:
- not providing alcohol to minors
- making sure friends and family are not leaving your house too intoxicated to drive home safely
- don’t automatically refill glasses
- have plenty of non-alcoholic choices available
- always have some food to nosh on
- and, remember, the only thing that can sober someone up is time
- lastly, DON’T serve alcohol to minors
That’s what social consciousness looks like everywhere, even in wine country.
To learn more about RBS or, if you work in a bar/restaurant/store selling or serving alcohol and need to take a training, visit www.sonoma-county.org/health/services/rbstraining.asp
This blog post was brought to you by the Sonoma County Department of Health Services and aligns with Health Action, Sonoma County’s collaborative effort to improve the health and health equity of all residents. April 7-11 is National Public Health Week, a time to recognize the contributions of public health and highlight issues that are important to improving our nation.