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Stay safe on New Year’s Eve

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New Year’s Eve is the last hurrah. One last night to throw caution to the wind and live it up before 2014 begins. Whether you’re planning to watch the Idaho Potato Drop from the U.S. Bank Building in downtown Boise, hit the bars for some spirited fun, or party with friends, it’s important to keep in mind that many people are drinking tonight, and that means the risk for drunk drivers increases.

Drinking and driving is no joke. If your blood alcohol level is .08 or higher, you’re driving under the influence (DUI). In Boise, you can expect to receive six months in the county jail, a fine of $1,000, 30 day mandatory license suspension with a maximum of 180 day license suspension, probation for up to two years, and required alcohol evaluation and education. That’s for your first DUI arrest. The penalties get stiffer with subsequent offenses. You can view a full list of Boise's DUI penalties by clicking on this link.

To put that in perspective, according to the Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) web site, there were 9,141 DUI arrests in Idaho in 2012, and 3,029 were third time offenders, while 61 were five time offenders. The Idaho taxpayer subsidy of drunk driving fatalities for 2012 is estimated at $259 million.

First and foremost, if you’re planning to drink tonight, pick a designated, non-drinking driver, or plan to stay where you are until you’re sober enough to get behind the wheel.

Call a cab. Before you go out, program the number of a local cab service into your phone. You can try Chronic Cab (429-9333), Green City Taxi (353-1693), or Western Taxi (515-5874). A minute of preparation ahead of time can go a long way toward safety.

If you’re hosting a party, be sure to offer plenty of nonalcoholic beverages, and lots of food to keep guests from drinking on an empty stomach. You may want to plan for a few party games, door prizes, or other activities to keep the focus off drinking. And keep your own drinking to a minimum. You are responsible for those at your party. Don’t allow your own judgment to be impaired.

As party host, be sure to watch your guests’ alcohol consumption. Close the bar at a designated time, say midnight or 12:30 a.m. Put on the coffee and break out the sodas, sparkling cider, and water so everyone can sober up while still enjoying the party.

Prevent your guests from driving if they’ve had too much to drink. It’s perfectly OK to take someone’s keys and insist they stay there or get a ride if you think they’ve had too much. It’s better to risk offending them momentarily than risk losing them for good. They’ll thank you later.

Enlist the aid of another sober guest, or two, to help you persuade someone not to drive. This makes it more difficult for your impaired guests to resist. They might argue with you, but it’s hard to argue with multiple friends. You don’t need to be confrontational. Just explain, firmly but sincerely, that you care about them and you don’t want them to hurt themselves or others. If you have to, call the police. This is a last resort, but it could save lives.

Don’t let the New Year start on a tragic note. Be mindful of the increased risk of drunk drivers on Treasure Valley roads, and follow the above guidelines for a safe New Year’s Eve celebration.

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