Celebrate, but be safe tonight

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By The Staff

It’s hard to believe that another year has come and gone. Without a doubt, 2008 has been a history-making year – for the nation and Lancaster County.

The most significant national event is the election of the first black president in the history of the United States – Barack Obama. President-elect Obama will be sworn in as the United States’ 44th president on Jan. 20.

Locally, we’ve had a historical election ourselves. Indian Land resident Deborah Long was elected to fill the S.C. House District 45 seat making her the first female from Lancaster County to hold that seat.

The other top news locally was the torching of our beloved courthouse and then the solicitor’s office just days later.

But we are getting ready to say goodbye to this year and look forward to 2009 and, hopefully, a better year economically.

As we end this year, it is appropriate that we reflect on the past year and celebrate the new one. Many will be doing just that tonight – celebrating. And we hope everyone has a joyous – yet safe – celebration.

Those celebrations often include champagne or some other spirited drink. And if you are of the drinking age, we hope you have a good time. But we have a simple message for you – if you drink, don’t drive.

Drinking and driving is a deadly mix with tragic results. Drunken driving costs – not only in dollars, but in mental and painful consequences. DUI accidents can result in death, pain and guilt. They also cost in jail time, court time, auto bill repairs, medical costs and higher insurance premiums. Driving under the influence is not worth it.

People tend to underestimate how much a couple of drinks can impair their judgment and reflexes. That’s why it is important to make sure there is a responsible driver.

If you are going to drink, make sure you have a designated driver. Bartenders or party hosts must know when to cut patrons or guests off before they become a danger to themselves or others.

We also caution those traveling the highways tonight. This is a night when more drunken and impaired drivers are historically on the highways. That means you should pay more attention while driving.

The S.C. Department of Public Safety has some other holiday driving safety tips:

u Prepare for your trip by checking out your vehicle, planning your travel route and packing maps.

u Have an emergency first-aid kit including drinking water, flares, jumper cables, ice scraper, snacks, flashlight and blankets.

u Know where your spare tire, jack and other tools are in the vehicle and how to use them.

u If you have a flat tire slow down to a stop by coasting and don’t apply brakes abruptly. Set your parking brake before attempting to change the flat tire.

u Avoid confrontation with aggressive drivers by being patient. Do not tailgate, be mindful of the speed limit and other roadway signs and keep a safe following distance and refuse to engage in aggressive and combative driving.

So, have fun as you bid adieu to 2008 and welcome 2009. But do so safely.