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Residents, visitors urged to be safe over holiday

By Staff | Dec 29, 2009

Southwest Florida Addiction Services is warning local residents to be safe at New Year’s Eve parties.
With a mix of alcohol and impaired judgment, many of these parties can create deadly situations, said SWFAS CEO Kevin Lewis. Because most people increase their use of alcohol during the holiday season, he said people should take precautions to stay safe.
“We’re cautioning everyone to exercise good judgment and to be responsible if they choose to drink,” said Lewis in a prepared statement.
Driving while under the influence of alcohol is a major concern and December is Drunk and Drugged Driving Prevention Month. Because alcohol effects the nervous system — manifesting in a lack of coordination and lower inhibitions — Lewis and other experts recommend designating a sober driver before attending a party.
“Be sure and offer non-alcoholic alternatives to your friends who may attend a party, and remember that a good host won’t let a guest drive away under the influence,” said Lewis.
A driver with a blood-alcohol content of .08 or higher is legally considered drunk and incapable of operating a motor vehicle. Lewis explained that a person weighing 140 pounds would likely reach that limit after three drinks — drinking on an empty stomach or taking prescriptions will exacerbate this.
SWFAS addiction experts point out that a 12-ounce glass of beer, a 5-ounce glass of wine and 1.5 ounce of 80-proof liquor all contain the same amount of alcohol, and time is the only reliable way to sober up.
Law enforcement officers from the Lee County Sheriff’s Office will focus more on identifying impaired drivers for New Year’s, said spokesperson Tony Schall. The department won’t organize any official checkpoints, but will be on the look out.

“We will have a greater focus out there looking for impaired drivers, as we do all year long,” he said.
According to the sheriff’s office, more than half of all traffic fatalities involve alcohol.
Lewis said that adolescents with vacation time are more susceptible to drinking and driving on New Year’s Eve. Even though the Lee County 2009 Teen Norms Survey reported that 64 percent of Lee County adolescents haven’t had alcohol in the last 30 days, motor vehicle accidents are the main cause of death for adolescents between the age of 15 and 20.
According to Students Against Drunk Driving, 28 percent of teens who died in a motor vehicle accident were drinking.