Celebrating safely on New Year’s Eve

A new year is just days away and it’s not too early to think about staying safe on New Year’s Eve. Lynnette Deardurff, trauma program manager at Trinity Health, has some suggestions on keeping a visit to the emergency room out of the pre-2014 festivities.

The number one suggestion is to not drink and drive. If you’re going to drink alcohol, Deardurff said have a designated driver and don’t let your friends drive drunk. Also, if you’re the one hosting the party, offer beverages that are free of alcohol, she continued, or call a taxi for those who need it or make sure they have a place to stay at your house. Taking the keys away from the person who is intoxicated is also an option.

It may sound funny, but if you are opening a bottle of champagne, Deardurff said to be careful to make sure the cork doesn’t hit anyone in the eye after popping the cork out of the bottle.

“When you’re going out, go out in a crowd, not by yourself,” Deardurff cautioned, and that applies to both men and women. “You’re not sure of the people around you and they can’t be trusted.” She added that it’s surprising how many assaults occur. Also, it’s advised not to leave your drink unattended.

“Everyone thinks they’re sober enough to drive home,” Deardurff said. However, she provided information that says after drinking about two beers, or a blood alcohol level of 0.02, the person will have loss of judgment and trouble doing two tasks at one time. After drinking about three beers, or a blood alcohol level of 0.05, it will reduce coordination and ability to track moving objects and trouble steering the vehicle. After drinking about four beers, or a blood alcohol level of 0.08, it will be difficult to control the speed of the vehicle and difficult to process information and reasoning. After drinking about five beers, or a blood alcohol level of 0.10, the person will have a markedly slow reaction time, difficulty staying in their lane and difficulty braking when needed. After drinking about seven beers, or a blood alcohol level of 0.15, the person will have serious difficulty controlling the vehicle and with driving. The span of time at which alcohol is consumed also makes a difference, Deardurff noted.

“People think they’re safe to drive if they’ve only had a couple of beers, but when you put that together with road conditions, it can have dangerous results,” she added.

Weather conditions are also necessary things to consider for safety. Deardurff suggested that people think about the weather and road conditions before traveling somewhere, slow down and drive accordingly, allow extra time to reach the destination, be cautious when passing and never use cruise control in icy road conditions. “We see a lot of semis where the car hits the back end of the semi,” she added.

It’s also important to keep a winter survival kit in your car, Deardurff said, and keep a full tank of gas. Also tell people where you’re going and when you plan on arriving.

“Keep in mind about falling,” Deardurff added, either on ice outside or on a slippery surface indoors. For outdoors, make sure the snow on the sidewalk and driveway is removed and wear gripping shoes, she said.

Deardurff said they see a lot of people coming in to the emergency room who are intoxicated as well as a lot of young people who don’t know when to stop drinking. People also come in experiencing chest pain, she added, because of the stress and excitement of the festivities. People come in to the ER for the normal, everyday issues, but there are more incidents of alcohol intoxication or falling on New Year’s Eve, Deardurff continued.

The emergency room is always busy, Deardurff said, and not just busy on New Year’s Eve. “We see a lot of accidents because of weather and excess traffic,” she added. But according to statistics provided by the state, nearly one-third of fatal crash deaths have involved alcohol, Deardurff said. In North Dakota, there is one alcohol related crash occurring every 8.6 hours, she continued. So far, there have been 49 alcohol related fatalities in North Dakota, out of 112 fatalities total, Deardurff said, making nearly 50 percent of them alcohol related.

“People need to commit to a New Year’s Eve that’s safe and sober,” Deardurff said.