To the Editor:
As New Year's Eve 2014 approaches, many of us are looking forward to spending time with friends and family. Unfortunately, too many of these celebrations will include alcohol or other mood-altering substances. All too often, this leads to impaired driving.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, one person dies every 48 minutes nationally as a result of an alcohol- or drug-impaired driver. Whether using alcohol and drugs, the user's reaction time, motor skills, judgment and memory are impaired and the person's ability to drive safely and responsibly is greatly impacted.
Those too young to legally drink frequently make dangerous choices on New Year's Eve. Parents can help by talking with their teenagers, being involved, setting rules, and, above all, being good role models. With the New Year's weekend upon us, parent responsibility is paramount since alcohol is easily available. Seventy-four percent of kids between the ages of 8 and 17 say parents are the leading influence in their decisions about alcohol.
One way parents can model good behavior and make traditional family gatherings safe is to not serve alcohol at their events. Instead, they can serve attractive, non-alcoholic beverages or topical fruit drinks. If you do choose to serve alcohol, make sure those under age 21 do not have access to the alcohol. Avoid making alcohol the main focus of your New Year's Eve social event. Serve plenty of snacks and stop serving alcoholic drinks at least one hour before the end of the party.
Celebrate the New Year and have fun, but remember that impaired driving and its consequences can alter or destroy lives and property in the blink of an eye. Have a happy, healthy and safe 2014.
Dr. George Belitsos, CEO
Youth & Shelter Services, Inc.