12/30/08 — Designate safety: Plan now to prevent 2009 from starting with a tragedy

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Designate safety: Plan now to prevent 2009 from starting with a tragedy

A little more than 24 hours from now, there will be a big celebration as the world watches 2008 melt into 2009.

But before the acorn drops in Raleigh or the ball in New York City, plenty of Americans will enjoy parties of all sorts with their families and friends.

And, somewhere, someone will have too much to drink and get behind the wheel of a car.

Friends will notice that he is impaired, but will say nothing. They will not want to get involved. Onlookers will also notice, but be too busy with their own festivities to take the time to interfere.

Minutes later, that same impaired driver will encounter a bend in the road, a tree or, worse yet, another driver. There will be a crash, and at least one life will be destroyed forever or lost.

What is sad about this story is that it could happen anywhere -- and does, every year. People do not think about the potential consequences. They simply don't believe it can happen to them.

But in an instant, what should be the celebration of a new start becomes the end of a life and a horrible memory for the grieving family the drunken driver leaves behind.

And what is most tragic is that this scenario is completely preventable.

So, please, celebrate the end of 2008. It has been the kind of year that has been a challenge for many Americans and one we should be willing to set aside. Welcome the new year in with your friends and family -- and a drink if you would like.

But if you are in a group, designate a driver to make sure everyone gets home safely. Make sure he or she has keys in advance and all the non-alcoholic beverages he or she can consume.

That way, after the ball drops, your designee can make sure all of you get home safely and will be around to celebrate another new year.

And if you are out on New Year's Eve and see someone who should not be driving, don't wait for someone else to do something, interfere, before the impaired person gets behind the wheel of a car.

Your interference just might save a life.

And if the potential for tragedy does not keep you from over-indulging, remember, there are serious penalties for those who choose to drive drunk.

There will be plenty of law enforcement personnel out on the roads throughout the holiday celebrations watching for those who decide to take a chance. It is not hard to catch a drunk, and jail is no place to spend a day off.

There has been too much tragedy on the nation's highways this year -- and some precious lives were lost innocently right here, too. No more families should have to suffer the horror of losing someone they love and forever having to associate a holiday with such a loss.

Let's try to make sure that Wayne County keeps its New Year's death toll right where it needs to be -- at zero.

Published in Editorials on December 30, 2008 11:03 AM