Celebrate safely

Published 12:15 am Friday, December 31, 2010

Have a good time, but do it safely.

That’s the message being sent to those who are planning to go out and celebrate the end of 2010 and the beginning of 2011.

North Carolina Highway Patrol First Sgt. Todd Lane said his agency will be out in force over the weekend, doing its best to protect the citizens of the Roanoke-Chowan region.

Troop A, District II, which encompasses Bertie, Gates and Hertford counties, will have checkpoints in all three locations as well as beefing up patrols.

“With the weather projected to be warmer, we feel like people will be getting out after being closed in for several days,” Sgt. Lane said. “We will enhance patrols and will concentrate our efforts on impaired drivers.”

First Sgt. Lane also encouraged those who were hosting New Year’s Eve parties to have a plan in place to get people home safely should they become too impaired to drive.

Bertie County Sheriff John Holley joined the First Sgt. in encouraging those who intend to drink to have a designated driver.

“The decision to have a designated driver can be a life-altering decision,” Sheriff Holley said. “I believe that if people really considered the worst-case scenario, they would take the time to get a designated driver.”

Sheriff Holley said it was important to choose the right person to serve in that all-important role, however.

“You really need to choose a person who does not drink,” he said. “Sometimes a designated driver will decide to have one drink and that will lead to another, so it’s better to just have someone who doesn’t drink at all.

“It’s also important to choose someone who can tell you no if you ask for the keys to your vehicle after you’re impaired,” he said. “

While many people may plan to take a drink during the holidays, many others who are celebrating will be doing so with no alcoholic beverage in sight. Those people – many of whom will be attending church services – also have to be careful, according to Northampton County Sheriff Wardie Vincent.

“It’s important to be mindful of other drivers,” Sheriff Vincent said. “With it being New Year’s weekend, the unfortunate fact is that some people will consume alcohol and drive. That means the safe drivers have to be extra cautious of others, even though they aren’t drinking themselves.”

The Sheriff said it is important for motorists to allow for extra time to arrive at their destination.

“I would encourage anyone who is traveling to leave ahead of time,” Sheriff Vincent said. “Watch your speed and give time for you to take your time if others are causing problems on the roadways.”

Sheriff Vincent said it was especially important to be careful around the midnight hour because people would be beginning to move about more.

While it’s important to be careful on the roads, Hertford County Sheriff Juan Vaughan said it is equally important to be cautious at celebratory gatherings.

“The first part of safety is to be aware of your surroundings,” Sheriff Vaughan stressed. “Know who you are celebrating with.

“If you take a drink or participate in a toast, make sure you keep your cup or glass in your hand,” he added. “Don’t sit it down and leave it, especially if you are celebrating outside your own home or that of a friend or relative.”

Those wishing to enjoy a celebration to welcome in the New Year can do just that and still have a wonderful day Saturday, if they are just cautious and follow the advice of those who know how to keep citizens safe.