It's almost time to pop the champagne and toast a new year, as we look back on 2019 and look forward to 2020 and a new decade.

Many will celebrate with friends and family, and some at parties or other events, and we encourage you to be thankful for all this year has brought you and to be hopeful for what lies ahead.

However, please celebrate responsibly.

It's easy to get carried away in a sea of “Auld lang syne” as the calendar flips over to a new year filled with possibilities, but the new venture could come to an abrupt end for you or someone else if you choose to drive drunk.

Plan ahead and have a designated driver! Don't let the good times end in tragedy this New Year's Eve.

According to www.transportation.gov, in December 2016, nearly 3,070 people died in a motor vehicle crash, and approximately 780 of those lives lost were in drunk-driving related wrecks.

Statistics show that over the course of five years, during the period spanning from Christmas to the New Year's holiday, an average of 300 people died each year in drunk-driving crashes.

This is a real problem, and it's not something to dismiss if there will be alcohol at your New Year's Eve celebration.

Sometimes people also believe that just having a couple of drinks and a slight buzz means it's okay to get behind the wheel. This is not true – someone could die if you choose to drive after drinking alcohol.

Or, as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration puts it, “Buzzed Driving is Drunk Driving.”

“Alcohol consumption impairs your thinking, reasoning and muscle coordination – all vital abilities to operating a vehicle safely … at a .08 Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC), your crash risk increases exponentially,” according to www.nhtsa.gov, which outlines the progression from sobriety to drunkenness on its website.

With a mere .02 BAC, a person experiences a decline in visual function and an inability to perform two tasks at the same time, while at a .05 BAC level, he or she experiences reduced coordination, a reduced ability to track moving objects and begins to have difficulty steering, as well as a reduced response to emergency driving sitation, the site notes.

At a .08 BAC, the person experiences problems with “concentration, short-term memory loss, speed control, reduced information processing capability and impaired perception,” it adds.

From there – at a point which a BAC of .08 or higher becomes illegal when driving – things only get worse: With a BAC of .10, a person experiences a reduced ability to maintain lane position and brake appropriately; with a BAC of .15, there is “substantial impairment in vehicle control, attention to driving task and in necessary visual and auditory information processing,” the site states.

So even a small amount of alcohol can affect a person's driving ability, making buzzed driving drunken driving.

We are not trying to ruin your celebration of a new year; we simply want you to be safe and to be with us for the new year.

So, have the adult beverage of your choice, but also choose not to drive. Either stay overnight at the location of your party or secure a ride home with someone who is sober.

We hope you have a great New Year's Eve and a wonderful New Year!

Jacksonville Progress

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