Officials Urge Safety on New Year’s Eve


Whether its drunken driving, injuries caused by fireworks or celebratory gunfire, there’s plenty of reason for organizations specializing in safety to pass along a few reminders as people prepare to ring in the new year.

Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD) says a key to a successful new year’s party that leads to a safe trip home starts with a successful new year’s party host. “Party hosts can do their part by serving alcohol responsibly and providing safe rides home,” says MADD National President Wendy Hamilton. “Guests can choose to drive sober or designate a sober driver.”

MADD says 57 Americans lost their lives last New Year’s Eve in alcohol-related traffic accidents. While laws vary state to state, many hold party hosts financially responsible if one of their guests is involved in an alcohol-related crash, including costs associated with medical bills and property damage and being sued for emotional pain and suffering.

The Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) is also on a drive to get people to celebrate responsibly, though their emphasis is on fireworks.

The CPSC predicts that fireworks will injure about 400 people hoping to start 2004 off with a bang. It bases that estimate on government emergency room injury data during the last seven New Year’s Eves. Injuries range from the loss of fingers and hands to severe burns and shrapnel wounds.

Illegal fireworks are the commission’s biggest concern. The CPSC says people should make sure the fireworks are legal in their state or local area.

In big cities, celebratory gunfire has long been a concern, especially in Los Angeles where according to The Los Angeles Times, 40 people have lost their lives since 1985 because of New Year’s revelers firing gunshots into the air. Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca says a bullet fired into the air can climb up to two miles before returning to earth, with still enough speed to kill. “If you don’t care about yourself, care about the children who are in your neighborhoods, and also care about your neighbors,” Baca says. “Don’t fire a gun into the air. You might kill someone.”

A Safe New Year

The American Red Cross has put together a list of tips it says can help one not only celebrate the end of 2003 but be there for 2004:

  • Never drink and drive: Even a small amount of alcohol will impair your coordination and judgment. If you intend to drink, make sure to assign a responsible, designated driver to take you home. If you are the designated driver, don’t drink at all.

  • Buckle your seatbelt: Wearing a seat belt is the easiest and safest and best way to prevent injury in a motor vehicle.

  • Prepare for sub-freezing temperatures: Wear a hat and dress in layers for optimum insulation. Skip the jeans and go for wool or a synthetic fabric to preserve warmth. Also, drinking beverages with alcohol or caffeine will make you more susceptible to cold-weather emergencies. Instead, try hot cider, soup or chicken broth. Take off wet clothes as soon as you can. Learn the warning signs of frostbite and hypothermia.

  • Stay on the edge of crowds: Staying on the outside of crowds will lessen your risk of getting injured. Watch out for pickpockets. Don’t carry a purse or a backpack. Try to be aware of your surroundings at all times. Supervise children constantly.

  • Host parties with safety in mind: Decorate only with flame-retardant or noncombustible materials. Avoid using candles. Be sure to serve non-alcoholic beverages to guests who are driving and keep alcohol away from children. If guests will be smoking, provide large and deep ashtrays and check them frequently. Afterwards, check inside and under upholstery and in trashcans for smoldering cigarette butts.

  • Be prepared for emergencies: Have emergency numbers handy beside every phone in the home. Know how to recognize when someone is choking or is going into cardiac arrest.

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