CDOT: Drive safely this holiday season

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With many holiday parties in full swing throughout December, the Colorado Department of Transportation and statewide law enforcement agencies are reminding people to plan ahead when planning to drink alcohol or expect to face serious consequences.

The Colorado State Patrol and more than 40 law enforcement agencies have filed plans to be out in force beginning at 6 p.m. Friday, Dec. 14, until 3 a.m. Monday, Dec. 17, for "Office Party Weekend" DUI enforcement.

In December 2006, 16 of the 34 people killed in traffic crashes in Colorado died in alcohol-related crashes. Seventy five percent, or 12, of the alcohol-related traffic deaths in December occurred on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday.

"The holiday season is a joyous time of celebration, but unfortunately some people make bad choices resulting in a DUI arrest, or worse - killing or injuring themselves or others by driving impaired," said Col. Mark Trostel, chief of the Colorado State Patrol, in a news release. "It's simple to avoid a tragedy by planning ahead, and designating a sober driver or taking public transportation, so that important decisions don't have to be made after you've already had too much to drink."

CDOT has the following "Plan Ahead" tips for those expecting to attend holiday parties and consume alcohol:

Decide how you will get home before going to the party. Whether it is a taxi, the light rail, a friend, or your spouse : decide ahead of time.

Schedule a taxi or driver to take you to the party, so you can leave your car at home and avoid any temptation to drive later.

Be sure to eat enough food and drink plenty of water.

Make sure your friends and coworkers have their own plans or even coordinate plans so everyone gets home safely.

If you plan on driving home, substitute alcohol with coffee or water at least 90 minutes before you leave the party.

Remember, alcohol affects everyone differently, so it's always a good idea to play it safe and not drive if you've been drinking.

For those planning to host holiday parties, keep your guest safe by following these tips:

Provide plenty of seating for guests. Seated guests often put drinks down, while standing guests hold their drinks, sipping frequently.

Encourage sensible drinking by offering appetizing alternatives to alcoholic drinks.

Close your bar 90 minutes before your party is over and serve a great dessert with coffee or tea.

Offer guests alternative modes of transportation (taxi cab vouchers, designated drivers, shuttle service, etc).

Consider arranging for discounted or complimentary rooms when a party is held at a hotel, or similar accommodations for private parties.

"Driving impaired is simply not worth the risk. A DUI conviction can cost upwards of $10,000, not to mention facing possible jail time, the loss of a driver's license and lost wages due to time off from work," said Pam Hutton, CDOT Governor's Representative for Highway Safety, in a press release. "There are much better things to spend your money on for the holidays than fines, court fees and higher insurance rates."

During last year's Office Party Weekend DUI enforcement, 475 people were arrested for DUI during the three-day period.

The next Heat Is On! DUI enforcement period begins at 6 p.m. Dec. 28 and ends at 3 a.m. Jan. 2, 2008.

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