Tips for partying and driving safely this holiday season

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We are in the season of festivities, with many celebrations for the holidays and New Year's. But the sobering reality is that it's also a time of year when many people die on our roads due to drunk driving.

In 2011, 9,878 people were killed in alcohol-related car crashes, including 395 during the second half of December alone. That is a decline of 2.5 percent for the year, but it still accounts for about a third of all traffic deaths.

Twenty-seven states saw a decrease in alcohol-related fatalities for the year. Texas, New York, South Carolina, and Tennessee had declines of 30 or more fatalities compared to 2010. However, three states had increases of 30 or more--Colorado, Florida, and New Jersey. While there was a small decline overall last year, drunk driving continues to plague our nation's roads.

To help curb dangerous behavior, there is a seasonal drunk-driving campaign "Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over" running nationwide through the new year. Police will be out in force conducting traffic stops to catch offenders and spreading the word that drinking and driving don't mix.

Here are some tips to keep in mind as you celebrate the holiday season:

  • Have a designated driver. If you plan on traveling to a party, make sure you have a driver who will stay sober and be responsible for taking you home safely.
    • Drop off your keys. If you don't have a designated driver, give someone your keys so you aren't tempted to get into the car after drinking.
    • Pack a bag. If you plan to party hard and/or late, bring an overnight bag so that you are prepared to sleep over until you are sober and alert enough to drive home. In fact, make it part of your plans and everyone will sleep better.
    • Use public transportation. Most cities with public transportation systems will have more buses and trains running throughout New Year's Eve to help party-goers get home safely. Organizing a cab or even share one to reduce costs.
    • Walking isn't safer. You aren't necessarily safer if you decide to hoof it after a few drinks instead of getting behind the wheel. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the first day of the new year has the highest number of pedestrians killed than any other day throughout the year. If you must walk, go in a group and wear visible clothing, so that drivers can see you.
    • Know where your children are. We've all heard that TV ad that says: "It's 10 p.m., do you know where your children are?" Make sure you keep tabs on your kids if they are going to be out with friends this New Year's. Coordinate with other parents to transport children home from parties and make sure they know the rules on drinking and driving.
    • Coffee isn't the cure. It's a myth that coffee can help sober you up. Only time can do that, so stay put until you recover.

    Have fun this holiday season, but do stay safe.



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