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It's the holiday season: a few short weeks crammed with office parties, open houses, cocktail bashes, corporate swill-fests and more opportunities /obligations to drink than many can handle.

For those who have knocked back one (or 13) too many, failing to plan their departure can mean failing a breathalyzer test, or worse. Imagine being so soaked you can't walk a straight line -- do you really think you'll be able to call a cab, wait for it to arrive, provide directions and manage the payment? Unless you want to become a DUI statistic or a cautionary tale, prepare before you join the festivities by opening a ridesharing account. DUIs not only put people's lives at risk, but are incredibly costly. DUI insurance rates are incredibly high and add multiple thousands of dollars per year to your car insurance premium.

Infographic: Holiday Drinking & DUIs

Graphic by: Sobering-Up

Ridesharing saves lives

Temple University researchers found that having ride-sharing options in California reduced the DUI death count by about 5 percent. In their paper Show Me the Way to Go Home: An Empirical Investigation of Ridesharing and Alcohol Related Motor Vehicle Homicide, Brad N. Greenwood and Sunil Wattal concluded that if ride-sharing was available to the entire nation, it would save $1.3 billion and about 500 lives each year.

Taxi challenges

Ridesharing may be more successful at getting drinkers home than the taxi industry for several reasons. First, if you're not accustomed to using cabs, just getting one on the phone in a loud club or party can be challenging. Then you have to tell the dispatcher where you are, and you're a bit silly from drinking and may not have the address.

If it's a busy night (i.e., any night during the holiday season), expect to wait -- perhaps for more than an hour, and possibly outside. Or you could try walking in the cold and waving your arms at every passing cab -- to no avail.

When your taxi arrives, it might be an old car, and the meter might empty your wallet before you make it home. Then, there's the payment problem -- if the car's credit card machine isn't working, the driver could insist on cash.

Finally, your poor little intoxicated brain has to calculate a tip. Difficulties completing these tasks may inspire some drinkers to drive themselves home instead, a very bad idea.

The ridesharing experience

Temple researchers speculate that the decrease in DUI deaths may be due to the increased availability of rides, the reduced cost, and the relative ease of ordering a rideshare service. For those who plan ahead and open up a ridesharing account with Uber, Lyft, or any of the other top services, the trip home becomes a lot less complicated.

When you need a ride, you use the service's app to see available cars in your area on a map. Select one, and the app directs it to your location. You can track its progress on your phone, so no waiting outside in the cold for the car. The service will even message you when the car nears your location.

With providers like Uber, you can choose between an economical ride or an upgrade, such as Uber Black, which offers professional limousines with amenities like snacks and bottled water.

The driver gets you home and the ride is automatically charged to your account. The driver's compensation is covered by your ride fee -- no tip calculation needed.

Other ridesharing advantages

While convenience is a huge ridesharing plus, several other benefits are also important:

  • Safety: The app always knows where you are and who is driving you.
  • Quality: Customers rate the drivers and cars, providing incentive to keep the cars clean and be nice to customers. Uber and others require cars to be reasonably new and in good shape. Taxi rides, on the other hand, are short-term transactions, and there's no incentive for drivers to go above and beyond, or even just to be civil and drive safely.
  • Cost: Ridesharing's biggest advantage, for many, is that you're told the expected fare upfront, it's usually cheaper than a taxi.

One possible disadvantage is "surge" pricing. During times of high demand, the price of rides from Lyft, Uber and other providers can go up. This could be the case during the party season.

What if you don't want to leave your car behind?

For some, the cost of drinking too much goes beyond the hangover. The next day, they have to get themselves back to where they left their car (hopefully they can remember), pick it up and get home. Or, they can contact a service like Luxe in Los Angeles to pick them and their car up. It works similar to ordinary ridesharing, but the drivers get around on scooters, skateboards or on foot, then drive you home in your own car.

Of course, the smartest thing to do in the next few weeks is to know your limit and stay sober; maybe even become a rideshare driver yourself. But just in case you slip up, open an account with a ridesharing service. They're saving lives, and one might be yours.