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Drunk driving shouldn't be part of holiday fun
Notes from an almost-military wife
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“Woosh! Aaah!  Thunk!”  
Each new season of the year announces its arrival with unique sounds — the singing birds of spring, the rustling leaves of fall or the chirping crickets of summer.  But in Oxford, Ohio, the arrival of winter is announced by an entirely different kind of sound: the falling of girls in high heels on icy pavement.  
I lived in Oxford for four years while attending Miami University.  And while I thoroughly enjoyed my time there, the town doesn’t offer many activities for students.  So, like countless other college towns, Oxford boasts a disproportionately high number of bars for its population.  The bars are concentrated in a single area of approximately five city blocks, which is the nighttime destination for students; and because of the town’s small size and proximity to campus, the preferred way to get to the bars is on foot.  
If you’ve ever spent winter in Ohio, you’re probably familiar with the biting winds and coating of ice on the sidewalks. But wind and weather have never prevented Miami’s female students from putting on their best heels and sequined tank tops for a 20-minute hike from the dorms to the bars on a Saturday night in December.  They may be frozen, but they’ll still look good.
Even though this practice is a great way to catch pneumonia, it’s still much safer than attempting to drive home after a night of drinking.  Falling on an icy sidewalk may hurt for a short time, but it’s nothing compared to the permanent damage that a drunken driver can cause to themselves and others.
As military spouses, we need to be especially careful when it comes to drinking and driving.  Most installations have very strict regulations and penalties, which are often more harsh than those off-post. And, since many installations, such as Fort Stewart, are located in rural or semi-rural areas, driving on these roads poses particular risks.  
According to the Georgia Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, although only one-quarter of Americans live in rural areas, crashes on rural roads account for more than half of all traffic fatalities. It’s easy to think that driving on a rural road is safer than driving in congested city traffic; but it’s exactly that kind of false confidence that can lead to a crash.
So, please, if you decide to celebrate this holiday season by having a few drinks, don’t drive. Always go out in groups and designate a driver. If you’re hosting a party, make sure your guests stop drinking at least two to three hours before they leave, and monitor them closely for any signs they may have had too much.  
Be safe. Have fun this holiday season, and if you’re going out in Ohio, don’t forget to wear your coat and sensible shoes.

Gotler lives in Columbus, where her fiance is stationed at Fort Benning.
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