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Drink responsibly on New Year's Eve
Health advice
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This year has been rough, and most people probably wouoldn’t want to repeat it. The economic instability, terrorist activities and our feuding representatives are all cause for alarm. But perhaps your family has a reason to celebrate good news in 2009 — a new baby, marriage or career opportunity If so, congratulations!
Many of us — with reason to celebrate or not — will ring in the New Year tomorrow night with a big party. There will be lots of good food and plenty to drink. And while it’s important to celebrate happy times and have fun with friends, it’s just as important to stay safe.
The percentage of drunk-driving incidents typically increase during the holidays, and while New Year’s celebrations offer excellent opportunities to toast one another and splurge on a few glass of champagne, over-indulging can have terrible consequences.
Drunk driving is the most frequently committed violent crime in America. Every 30 minutes, someone in this country dies in an alcohol-related crash.
Before taking a drink, there are certain things you must think about. First, accept responsibility for yourself and your actions. Second, recognize when it’s time to accept responsibility for friends and your guests who drink too much during a party at your house. While laws vary from state to state, hosts and hostesses in Georgia can be held responsible for costs that arise when an impaired guest is involved in a crash (medical bills, property damage, etc.). Alcohol suppliers can also be sued for emotional pain and suffering.
Here are a few tips to help you throw a successful party without tossing caution to the wind:
• Plan activities (games, dancing, etc.) that engage people in things other than the constant consumption of alcohol.
• When guests arrive, make sure that at least one person in each group is prepared to be a designated driver.
• Provide plenty of food to keep guests from drinking on an empty stomach.
• Avoid too many salty snacks, which  tend to make people thirsty and drink more.
• Offer non-alcoholic beverages for designated drivers and others who prefer not to drink alcohol.
• If preparing an alcoholic punch, use a non-carbonated base, like fruit juice. Alcohol is absorbed into the blood stream faster with a carbonated base.
• Have the number of a taxi service available or arrange for non-drinking guests to provide rides for  those who are drinking.
• Do not serve alcohol to anyone under 21.
• Have a reliable “bartender” mix drinks. This will help keep track of the size and number of drinks each guest consumes. Remember, a 12-ounce beer, a five-ounce glass of wine or a 12-ounce wine cooler contain the same amount of alcohol as a shot of liquor.
• If a guest appears to be drinking a bit much, offer to freshen his or her drink with a virgin version.
• Do not push drinks. Drinking is not mandatory for having a good time.
• Have fun, but remember how much fun you did have. Host and hostesses should set an example, so stay within your limits in order to make sure your guests stay within theirs.  
• Close the bar 90 minutes before the party ends and serve a great dessert with coffee. Remember, only time sobers someone who has been drinking.
• If, despite all of your efforts, some of your guests drink too much, drive them home, arrange for a ride with another guest who is sober, call a taxi or invite them to stay over.
During the holidays, sobriety checkpoints are set up in multiple locations in Georgia. Law officers work hard to keep our streets safe for everyone — impaired drivers as well as innocent by-standers. You can help by being on the lookout for these signs of drunk driving:
• Straddling lanes or driving on the center line
• Drifting or moving in a straight line at a slight angle to the roadway
• Driving with headlights off at night
• Erratic braking or stopping without cause
• Driving below the speed limit  
Here’s wishing you a very safe and healthy New Year.

Ratcliffe is a consultant to the Coastal Health District. You can call her at 876-6399.
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