Thursday, December 29, 2011
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Holiday partying carries responsibilities

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[December 29, 2011]  It may be hard to believe that we are already getting ready to say goodbye to 2011 and embrace what lies ahead in 2012.

This weekend many folks will be ringing in a new year, perhaps with hopes that it will be a better year than the one we are leaving.

As we think about the new year, there is one thing the city of Lincoln does not want anyone to have to face in 2012 and that is the death of a loved one due to impaired driving.

December is typically the month designated by the Lincoln City Council as "Drunk and Drugged Driving Awareness Month." The council does this to lend support to those who support responsible drinking and those who enforce the law when arrests are made due to impaired driving.

Mike Geriets, deputy police chief for the city, said this week that the city officers will be paying attention New Year's Eve, and if you drive impaired, you will be stopped.

"Fortunately, we have a history of not having a lot of impaired drivers out there on New Year's Eve, but our officers will be watching, paying attention to all drivers, especially in the late-night hours," Geriets said.

Geriets issued the usual reminders to all who may be celebrating the New Year: Choose a designated driver or take a cab.

Once again this year, the Healthy Communities Partnership Healthy Behaviors Task Force is teaming up with American Cab Co. in Lincoln to make taking a cab an easy choice.

The cab company will pick up partygoers at their location and deliver them home safe and sound, at no cost. The service doesn't allow for bar-hopping. Riders will only be delivered to their homes, and the delivery will only be within the city limits of Lincoln.

If you have been drinking, you are encouraged to call the cab company at 735-9696 or ask the bartender to call a cab for you.

"Safe Ride has become an established service that helps keep our streets safer on nights when children and families are more apt to be enjoying activities away from home," says Kristi Lessen, director of the Healthy Communities Partnership. "We encourage not only the community to remember Safe Ride when celebrating, but also bartenders to suggest it when necessary."

In 2012, Safe Ride will be available on Super Bowl Sunday, St. Patrick's Day, Memorial Day weekend, Fourth of July, the weekend of the Logan County Fair, during the Lincoln Art & Balloon Festival, Labor Day weekend, Halloween, the night before Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve.

In 2010 nationwide there were 32,885 traffic fatalities, with over 10,000 being alcohol- or drug-related. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, the total fatality number is the lowest since 1949.

However, in Illinois, there were 927 fatalities, actually 16 more than the previous year.

The State University of New York Sociology Department in Potsdam, N.Y., has put together a website that serves to educate the reader on alcohol in general and offers some very good information on drinking responsibly.

While many would prefer to see total abstinence from alcohol, common sense says that's not going to happen soon, so the next best thing is to act responsibly.

The website offers the following sound advice:


  • Volunteer to be a designated driver.

  • Always use a safety seat belt.

  • Use four-lane highways whenever possible.

  • Avoid rural roads.

  • Avoid travel after midnight.

  • Drive defensively.

  • Choose vehicles with air bags.

  • Never use illegal drugs. Illicit drugs are involved in a large proportion of traffic fatalities.

  • Never drive when fatigued. The dangers posed when fatigued are similar to those when intoxicated. A drunk or fatigued driver has slowed reactions and impaired judgment. And a driver who nods off at the wheel has no reactions and no judgment! Drivers who drift off cause about 72,500 injuries and deaths each and every year.

  • Don't use a car phone, put on makeup, comb your hair or eat while driving. Drivers using cellular phones are four times more likely to have an accident than other drivers.

  • Steer clear of aggressive drivers. Aggressive drivers may be responsible for more deaths than drunk drivers.


  • Volunteer to be a designated driver.

  • Never condone or approve of excessive alcohol consumption. Intoxicated behavior is potentially dangerous and never amusing.

  • Don't ever let your friends drive drunk. Take their keys, have them stay the night, have them ride home with someone else, call a cab, or do whatever else is necessary -- but don't let them drive!

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  • Create a setting conducive to easy, comfortable socializing: soft, gentle music; low levels of noise; comfortable seating. This encourages conversation and social interaction rather than heavy drinking.

  • Serve food before beginning to serve drinks. This de-emphasizes the importance of alcohol and also sends the message that intoxication is not desirable.

  • Have a responsible bartender. If you plan to ask a friend or relative to act as bartender, make sure that person is not a drink pusher who encourages excessive consumption.

  • Don't have an "open bar." A responsible person needs to supervise consumption to ensure that no one drinks too much. You have both a moral and a legal responsibility to make sure that none of your guests drink too much.

  • Pace the drinks. Serve drinks at regular, reasonable intervals. A drink-an-hour schedule is a good guide.

  • Push snacks. Make sure that people are eating.

  • Be sure to offer a diversity of attractive nonalcoholic drinks. (For numerous nonalcoholic drink recipes, see

  • Respect anyone's choice not to drink. Remember that about one-third of American adults choose not to drink and that a guest's reason for not drinking is the business of the guest only, not of the host. Never put anyone on the defensive for not drinking.

  • End your gathering properly. Decide when you want the party to end and stop serving drinks well before that time. Then begin serving coffee along with substantial snacks. This provides essential nondrinking time before your guests leave.

  • Protect others and yourself by never driving if you think, or anyone else thinks, that you might have had too much to drink. It's always best to use a designated driver.

One of the greatest ways to save lives and show your friends you care is to choose to be the designated driver. Designated drivers do not consume alcohol, not even one drink.

The same website also published the following good thoughts for those who choose to be designated drivers:

A designated driver helps friends and family:

  • Avoid embarrassment.

  • Keep their driver's licenses.

  • Avoid fines.

  • Stay out of jail.

  • Prevent senseless injury and death.

Advantages to the designated driver concept:

  • The nondrinker has a legitimate and respected role at a social function where alcohol is served. There is no stigma to abstaining because the designated driver is considered an important member of the group. Being a designated driver can also help legitimize a personal choice not to drink.

  • The designated driver approach prevents driving under any level of impairment because that person consumes no alcohol. It doesn't require a driver or passenger to determine if a person is too impaired to drive.

  • The server or host can offer a positive alternative to drunk driving by encouraging a group to designate a driver.

  • The designated driver concept is easy to understand, simple to implement, costs nothing and is effective.

Tips for designated drivers:

  • Plan ahead whenever you are going to socialize with alcohol beverages.

  • Decide ahead of time who will not drink any alcohol before or during the party or event.

  • Consider taking turns being the designated driver. Look after your friends and family and they can look after you.

  • Larger groups should have more than one designated driver.

This holiday season, LDN joins the city council, Mayor Keith Snyder, the Lincoln Police Department and the Healthy Communities Partnership in asking all those who celebrate to do so responsibly and to remember that the life you save might just be your own.


Related link:

Alcohol Problems and Solutions, published by the State University of New York Sociology Department, Potsdam, N.Y.:


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