While the holidays are a festive time to raise a glass in toasting family and friends, it is also a time for you to seriously think before taking that next drink.

In recognition of National Drunk and Drugged Driving Prevention Month this December, Marina Del Rey Hospital is encouraging residents to be responsible and hand over their keys to a designated driver if they have had too much to drink.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 2,053 alcohol-related traffic fatalities occurred in 2004 from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day. Those alcohol-related deaths made up 41.5 percent of all total traffic fatalities in the United States during that time.

“Every year we see families torn apart after unexpectedly losing a loved one to an accident caused by drunk driving,” said Robert Slay, M.D., chief of emergency medicine at Marina Del Rey Hospital. “Drunk driving can easily be prevented and yet it occurs far too often. By becoming more educated about the effects of alcohol and drunk driving, we hope that our community will be more aware of the potentially fatal repercussions if getting behind the wheel after having too many drinks.”

The following are a few tips from Slay for celebrating this holiday season and preventing impaired driving:

€ When attending a party where people in your group will be drinking, designate a sober driver prior to arrival.

€ If you do not have a designated driver and have already consumed alcohol, call for a taxi.

€ Know your state’s impaired blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) level. In California it is 0.08 percent, but if you feel impaired after drinking, you are.

€ Make sure you consume a substantial amount of food prior to drinking alcohol; don’t drink on an empty stomach.

€ When hosting a holiday function with alcohol, serve drinks with low concentration of alcohol and provide multiple non-alcoholic drink options.

€ If you see someone preparing to drive that you know has been drinking, take their car keys and call for a taxi, or if that fails, call the police.