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Holiday spirits

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Mid-December means two things in Northern New York: companies, organizations and families preparing to host Christmas and New Year’s Eve parties; and the arrival of dangerous driving conditions.

The blowing snow and icy roads can be difficult enough for motorists to handle. Even in more rural parts of the north country, vehicles can come out of nowhere. And when visibility and handling become trickier in colder weather, accidents are more likely to happen.

This phenomenon can be compounded with numerous holiday celebrations going on. One concern here is this has the potential of putting more vehicles on the road once it gets dark.

But the bigger worry is that alcohol is usually involved in these moments of merriment. Once you add up these factors — driving conditions made perilous by wet and slippery weather, limited visibility at nighttime and the possibility of impaired motorists — things can go wrong pretty fast.

This is not a call for the re-establishment of the 18th Amendment! Prohibition didn’t work in the 1920s, and there is no reason to believe it should make a return. In fact, the 80th anniversary of the ratification of the 21st Amendment repealing prohibition was commemorated Dec. 5 — and to that we tip our glasses and say “Cheers!”

There is nothing wrong with enjoying some cocktails at holiday gatherings. Many merchants make their living offering alcohol at packaged liquor stores and bars throughout the north country. They are a valued part of this region’s system of commerce and deserve to ply their trade.

However, it is imperative for individuals to be mindful of potentially hazardous driving conditions when they are out drinking. Operating a vehicle when impaired is a violent crime waiting to happen, even when the roads are decent. But once ice and snow make driving difficult for all motorists, adding too much alcohol to the mix is troubling.

Holiday party-goers should be responsible when attending social functions. Limiting their intake or abstaining from drinking alcohol are good ways to ensure they are better prepared for the return trip, particularly if the weather is poor.

Or if their liquor consumption may put them over the legal limit for driving on the roadways, they must plan for alternatives to getting behind the wheel themselves. Find a designated driver to travel with or call a taxi.

Hosts also should be mindful when planning holiday get-togethers. Find out what the road conditions will be, and have substitutes for alcohol available. Keep an eye on guests who will be taking to the roads, and offer to arrange for safer travel options if some of them have had too much to drink.

The holiday season is a time to enjoy the company of family and friends. Motorists should guard against turning this season into one of tragedy for themselves or others by not driving while intoxicated.

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