Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) kicked off its Tie One On for Safety campaign this month. The campaign, which runs until December 31, seeks to remind us that even during the holiday season, drinking and driving don’t mix.



Tie One On For Safety was created in 1986 and remains MADD’s most influential annual campaign. The movement takes its name from the slang term “tie one on,” which refers to drinking for the purpose of getting drunk. MADD repurposes the phrase by associating it with red ribbons, which are literally tied on cars and serve as a warning to intoxicated drivers who are tempted to get behind the wheel.

The campaign takes place at the beginning of the holiday season for a very specific reason: it’s the most dangerous time of year to be on the road. With more people traveling and more parties being hosted, the possibility of an alcohol-related car crash drastically increases. If you plan to host or attend a festive event this season, take a look at all the ways you can celebrate Tie One On For Safety.

Don’t Drink and Drive

Driving while intoxicated is the number one cause of roadway deaths. By resolving not to drive drunk (or even tipsy!), you help save lives.

Alcohol isn’t the only substance that causes car crashes. Drugs, both prescribed and illegal, are often just as impairing as alcohol. And be sure to eliminate all distractions– including texting–while behind the wheel. By staying alert and aware of your surroundings, you keep the roads safer for yourself and for everyone around you.

Designate a Sober Driver

Not planning to stay sober tonight? Form a strategy ahead of time so you know exactly how you’re going to get home. Before you leave for the party, designate one member of your group who will drive everyone home at the end of the evening. That person must be responsible–for staying sober and for keeping everyone else safe!

 Being the designated driver at every party is no fun, so take turns staying sober, and when it’s not your turn, offer to chip in for gas.

 Hand Over Your Keys

Alcohol can drastically inflate your confidence and “trick” you into thinking you’re sober enough to drive. Don’t fall for it! Even if you don’t feel drunk, your judgment may still be impaired, which can lead to a dangerous driving situation.

Eliminate any chance of getting behind the wheel by leaving your car keys with your designated driver.

Host Responsibly

In their efforts to throw a great party, hosts and hostesses sometimes make it difficult for designated drivers to stay sober. To combat this, remember to provide “mocktails” and other non-alcoholic beverages for the people at your party who have chosen not to drink.

Designated drivers who participate in the Tie One On For Safety campaign may be wearing red ribbons to symbolize their commitment to staying sober. Recognize this cue and avoid tempting the ribbon-wearers by offering them alcohol.

For those guests who are not staying sober, offer plenty of food to prevent anyone from drinking on an empty stomach.

Don’t Let Guests Go Home Drunk

Keep an eye on the people around you, even if they aren’t part of your group. Anyone who seems intoxicated at the end of the night should not be allowed to drive home.

Calling a taxi, ordering an Uber or Lyft, facilitating a ride with another guest, or driving the intoxicated person home yourself (as long as you’re sober!) are all responsible ways to prevent a drunk driving incident. If you are the party’s host, you can even let the guest stay overnight in a spare bedroom or on the couch.

Make A Back-Up Plan

Even the best-laid plans can go awry! If you were planning to stay sober but end up drunk, make sure you have an alternative way to get home. Many people use ride sharing apps like Uber or Lyft. (Not coincidentally, the Uber app was actually designed to be as easy to use as possible…one click, one question…perfect for intoxicated customers.) Others program the number of a reliable taxi service into their cell phones. Make a back-up plan that works for you.

Remember, if your cell phone battery is low, don’t leave for your night out. If you aren’t in a place where hailing a cab with an arm wave or whistle, you will need that cell phone powered up and working to secure your ride home.

Spread Awareness Online

Tie One On For Safety has saved countless lives by spreading awareness about the dangers of driving while under the influence. Join the movement by posting on social media using the hashtag #TieOneOnForSafety. Your post could save a life.

Spread Awareness In Person

Bring the Tie One On For Safety campaign to life by sporting a red ribbon in person. Whether you wear it on your clothing or attach it to your car, the message will come across loud and clear while still matching the festive holiday season.

MADD sells red ribbons, as well as red ribbon window decals and magnets, on its website:

Fundraise for MADD

When you throw your annual holiday bash, encourage your guests to donate to MADD instead of bringing you a customary hostess gift.  All funds raised support MADD’s mission to end intoxicated driving and support the victims of drunk driving crashes.

Visit MADD’s website to make a gift:

Where’s The Line?

How many drinks will make you a “drunk driver?” The answer varies wildly depending on who you are.

As you drink, the alcohol passes into your bloodstream. Alcohol molecules are small enough to pass between brain cells, which leads to interference with the neurotransmitters that allow your brain to operate. This is why your decision-making, judgment, and motor skills are compromised when you drink too much: the alcohol is literally distorting the way you think.

Because every human body is different, no one will absorb alcohol at exactly the same speed. Some people are drunk after a single alcoholic beverage; others will be unaffected until the third or fourth. Other factors that can make a difference include weight, gender, alcohol tolerance, how much you’ve eaten, medications you may be taking, and exactly what kind of drinks you’re imbibing. Impairment itself becomes evident in different people at varying rates and in different fashions. We’ve all known “lightweight” drinkers whose words slur after one beer, while others can sound perfectly normal after a night of binging. 

Sobering up, or waiting for the alcohol to leave the body, also occurs at different speeds for everyone. The majority of alcohol is metabolized and broken down, while about 10% is released through normal excretion processes like urine, perspiration, and exhalation. Although there are myths about how to make alcohol wear off more quickly—drinking coffee or taking a cold shower—time is the only thing that can truly sober a person up. The other methods may make someone feel more awake and alert, but they do nothing to remove the alcohol from the bloodstream.

The way law enforcement officers and medical professionals determine drunkenness is by measuring blood alcohol concentration (BAC), typically through a breathalyzer test. Using a simple test, a professional will be able to tell exactly how much alcohol has been absorbed into your bloodstream. BAC is expressed in percentages: the more you’ve had to drink, the higher the BAC.

Legally, you are considered an intoxicated driver in the United States if your BAC is higher than 0.08% when you get behind the wheel. This means that your blood supply contains eight units of alcohol for every 10,000 units of blood. The limit is lower for drivers of boats, planes, and commercial vehicles. Drivers under the legal drinking age are considered in many states to be intoxicated with any level of alcohol in their systems.

Measuring Drunkenness

While the rules and case law on DUIs are among the most complex statutes law enforcement deals with, they are largely the same across the country. Police are trained to recognize the signs of intoxication that might go unnoticed by civilians. Drivers suspected of driving under the influence are asked (or required, depending on the state) to perform field sobriety exercises. Experienced officers can often estimate BAC to within .01 just by observing performance on these standardized exercises. In most states, arrest for impairment does not require a breath test if the officer judges that a driver is incapable of safely operating a motor vehicle due to alcohol or drugs. However, a Breathalyzer test is part of the standard operating procedure for DUI enforcement. The test, which requires calibrated machines and certified operators, delivers results almost instantly and is admissible in court. 

How can your breath reveal the amount of alcohol in your blood? Once alcohol is absorbed into the bloodstream, it goes everywhere your blood goes, including to internal organs like the lungs. Even though there isn’t any blood in the air coming from your lungs (hopefully!), the alcohol is still detectable.

Blood tests and urine samples are also capable of indicating BAC, although they are used less often. In cases where a driver refuses to or is incapable of submitting a breath test, blood tests can be administered.

About MADD

MADD was founded in 1980 by Candace Lightner after her 13-year-old daughter, Cari, was killed in a drunk driving incident. At the time, drunk drivers were responsible for about 25,000 deaths per year in America. MADD’s mission was—and remains—to prevent drunk driving.

MADD quickly gained national recognition, earning a seat on President Ronald Reagan’s Presidential Commission on Drunk Driving in 1984 and helping to pass public safety legislature. Some of these policies included the Howard-Barnes Alcohol Traffic Safety Law, which incentivized states to lower the BAC limit on drivers. MADD also staunchly supported raising the legal drinking age to 21, which passed into law in 1988. The organization is responsible for the Department of Transportation’s decision to replace the word “accident” with “crash” in all publications; driving while under the influence, MADD claims, is not an accident but a conscious choice.

MADD coined and popularized the term “designated driver,” designed educational programs for youth about the dangers of underage drinking, and partnered with organizations like the National Football League to spread awareness about its mission. Its efforts have paid off: since 1980, the number of drunk driving deaths in the United States has been halved. Still, MADD states that its work will not be finished until the number of fatalities reaches zero and intoxicated driving has been eradicated.


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The information in this blog post is sourced from Mothers Against Drunk Driving (

Contributing blog writer: Elizabeth Feins, a HealthLynked staff writer.