A safe New Year

Published 7:45 pm Monday, December 26, 2011

The stockings are empty. The presents, unwrapped. Some of the toys are probably already broken. And there’s a pile of boxes and trash cans full of wrapping paper ready to be picked up by the folks at Public Works.

Christmas is over, and folks are ready to start getting back into the groove of normalcy. Of course, there’s another big holiday, New Year’s Day, around the corner, and businesses and other organizations in and around Suffolk are pulling out the stops this year to make to make sure you’re able to ring it in stylishly.

Check the Suffolk New-Herald website for a story about a few places where you can go to celebrate in high fashion. Reservations are available for those with planned events, and there will be any number of private parties around the city on Saturday, as revelers gather to celebrate turning the page once again on the calendar.

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But there’s one bit of planning that’s especially important as we prepare for a holiday famous for people’s consumption of alcohol. If you’re planning to drink alcohol at a New Year’s Eve party this year, please do yourself and the community a favor and make plans to get home that don’t involve driving.

According to a study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, based on data from The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration for alcohol-related traffic fatalities from 2000 to 2009, drunk-driving deaths rise by about 150 percent on New Year’s Day, compared to the same day of the week during the holiday season.

Nobody plans to drive drunk, and nobody expects to have an accident that takes their own life or that of someone else. But the statistics prove that these things happen more after New Year’s Eve parties and on weekends. With New Year’s Eve falling on a Saturday this year, the combination of factors could be a dangerous one.

If you are planning to go out and party with friends this year, have a plan in advance for getting home safely. Here are some ideas:

  • Have a designated driver, and make sure that person knows his role in advance so he won’t drink alcohol.
  • Leave your keys with someone, so you won’t be tempted to drive home after the party.
  • Pack a bag, so you’ll be able to stay the night with a friend.
  • Know where your children are and have a plan to get them home safely if they’re likely to be somewhere around alcohol.
  • Don’t plan to walk home, as statistics from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety show that New Year’s Day is the deadliest day for pedestrians.
  • Coffee won’t help sober you up. It will just make you a more-awake drunk.
  • If you’re hosting a party, keep an eye on your friends. The last thing you want is for the last time you saw them to be when they left your home drunk.

Have a happy New Year. But make it a safe one.