PINELLAS COUNTY – It happens every New Year’s Eve. Despite urging from local law enforcement to not drink and drive, people continue to flock to celebrations that serve alcohol, and many drink more than they should.
Many organizations, including Mothers Against Drunk Driving, are advising people who plan to party with alcohol to designate a driver who will not drink to drive everyone home after the party.
Responsible parties are the goal of MADD and the organization has prepared a Safe Party Guide that can be found at www.madd.org.
“New Year’s is one of the most deadly national holidays,” according to The National Safety Council. According to information on its Web site, www.nsc.org, traffic fatalities go up by about 17 percent on a New Year’s weekend. In 2003, 61 percent of the New Year’s traffic deaths involved alcohol.
The National Safety Council recommends that anyone driving this weekend should:
• Make sure all passengers are buckled up and children are in age-appropriate safety seats. • Allow plenty of travel time to avoid frustration and diminish the impulse to speed. • Drive defensively and exercise caution especially during inclement weather. • Limit alcohol intake. Even moderate consumption of wine or beer impairs reaction time and driving judgment.
Tow to Go
For the sixth year, AAA Auto Club South and Budweiser are fighting drunk driving by offering a free ride home and a free tow to adults who drink too much on New Year’s Eve.
Any adult who needs a ride home from bars or restaurants can call 1-800-AAA-HELP. AAA will dispatch a tow truck and take both the driver and the vehicle home, free of charge.
Police to patrol for drunk drivers
Local law enforcement are gearing up for New Year’s night. The Largo Police Department announced that it will be increasing the number of patrol officers. Four DUI officers will be on duty between the 10 p.m. and 3 a.m. to assist regularly assigned officers.
Sgt. Tim Goodman with the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office said its DUI patrols would be targeting areas with a history of DUI accidents. He said officers would be on patrol looking for any unsafe activities, including the use of fireworks.
“We’re not going to be out to stop anyone from having a good time,” Goodman said. “But we do want to make sure everyone stays safe.”
Goodman advised that people be careful and not drink and drive.
Drinking alcohol facts
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has published some facts that it wants party goers to know before heading out to New Year’s Eve celebrations.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, “Many New Year’s Eve partygoers believe that when they have stopped drinking for the night, maybe waited an hour or two and had a strong cup of coffee, the effects of alcohol will clear. The truth is that alcohol continues to affect the brain and body long after the last drink has been downed.”
Judgment and coordination can be impaired for up to 12 hours or more after drinking. Furthermore, a night of heavy drinking can leave the body in a hyperactive state, marked the next day by profuse sweating, increased sensitivity to light and sound, and anxiety – all conditions that make driving and other complex activities difficult, even if the person no longer feels ‘drunk.’ Heavy drinking is also associated with poor sleep that leaves the drinker sluggish and further impairs driving ability the next day.
Hangover myths and facts from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, include:
• Caffeine will not work to sober a person, as the body needs time to rid itself of the alcohol and even more time to return to normal. There are no trick cures – only time will help.
• Drinking water can help avoid the problem of dehydration often associated with drinking too much alcohol.
• Taking aspirin can hurt the stomach and acetaminophen can be toxic to the liver.
• Eating food the next morning, especially food with complex carbohydrates can help settle the stomach.
• Drinking alcohol the next morning – “hair of the dog” – does no good. The only cure is to get the alcohol out of the body, which takes time.
“The fact is,” according to a statement at www.niaaa.nih.gov, “there’s no way to speed up the brain’s recovery nor are there quick cures for a hangover. So this New Year’s Eve, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism urges you not to underestimate the effects of alcohol. Don’t believe you can beat them. And especially, don’t drink and drive.”