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Designate a safe start to 1998

December 30, 1998

Designated DriversBy MEG H. PARTINGTON / Staff Writer

photo: RIC DUGAN / staff photographer




You don't need to spend New Year's Eve at home with the television in order to stay safe.

Feel free to celebrate with friends and family, but as the world loses its grasp on 1998, don't lose your grip on common sense.

"The key is how you participate," says Hagerstown Police Chief Dale Jones.

Alcohol is a popular indulgence as revelers welcome in a new year, but abuse of it can turn holiday cheer into misery.

[cont. from lifestyle]

Between Thanksgiving Day and the end of New Year's Day 1997, 568 people were killed nationwide in alcohol-related accidents, according to Kris Reynolds, president of the Western Maryland chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Of those, 231 were killed on Thanksgiving Day, 208 on Christmas and 129 between New Year's Eve and New Year's Day, she says.

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Most importantly, don't drink and drive, says Sgt. J.A. Humphrey of the West Virginia State Police in Martinsburg, W.Va.

Before going out to a party, make arrangements to get home. "Stop and think about it," Reynolds says.

Designate a driver, call a taxi or ask a family member to pick you up, suggests Reynolds. Relatives would much rather come out at 3 a.m. to shuttle a loved one home safely than travel to a morgue to claim a body, she emphasizes.

Staying overnight at the party location is another safe option, says Jones.

If you're out on the roads and see a suspected drunken driver, keep a safe distance between your vehicle and the one being driven by the person you're concerned about, Humphrey says. Call the police and provide as much information as possible, including a description of the vehicle and where it's traveling, as well as the license plate number.

Jones adds that drivers should be particularly careful at intersections, where there is a chance that traffic signals or stop signs will be ignored. Keep windows and lights clean so vision is not hindered, he says.

Even if you're staying put on the festive night, don't overimbibe. While alcohol and vehicles can be a deadly mix, alcohol can be a killer all by itself.

If intake surpasses what a body can handle, alcohol poisoning can result.

"It's a potentially lethal problem," says Dr. Bruce Foster, chief of Waynesboro, Pa., Hospital's department of emergency medicine. People's weight, how fast their livers metabolize alcohol and how much food they have in their stomachs are all factors in how their systems will react to alcohol.

Most people don't intend to drink themselves into a sick state, Foster says. Their glasses become empty and they keep getting them refilled while mingling, losing track of how many drinks they've had. "It kind of sneaks up on you," he says.

To prevent a rude awakening, set a limit for yourself before the night's festivities begin, Foster says. Intersperse alcoholic beverages with club soda, tonic water or regular soda.

If you intend to drink alcohol tonight, don't do so on an empty stomach, Foster advises. Have some dinner or hors d'oeuvres while you're sipping.

While taking precautions for your own safety, pay attention to others around you, too. If you're hosting a party, keep an eye on friends and family members. If they overdo it, offer a couch or spare bed for them to sleep in, or drive them home.

Be particularly careful with children and older people who are not used to staying up late or being around large groups of people, Jones says. "Be sure that they're accompanied if they're out and about," he says.




-- Taxi and towing services

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