The New Year is always greeted with a number of predictions for the future.

The Alabama Department of Public Safety is no different, although it does not make predictions for what the year will bring. It makes what can be termed a grim prediction for the number of fatalities it expects during a holiday period.

They are predictions that usually prove to be accurate.

The traffic fatality prediction for New Year's is that 16 people will die in traffic crashes in Alabama during the 78-hour period from 6 p.m. Friday through midnight Monday.

Last year, 22 people died during the 78-hour New Year's travel period, 18 on rural roads and four in urban areas. Alcohol played a role in many of those deaths.

There are steps Cullman County residents can take to keep from becoming part of such grim statistics.

Drinking and driving is unfortunately a part of a combination associated with the New Year's holiday as much as counting down the seconds before the ball drops in Times Square in New York.

We're not saying that Cullman County residents shouldn't be in a celebratory mood while ringing in the New Year.

We are asking county residents to be responsible should they drink alcohol at any parties they attend.

Responsible does not mean getting behind the wheel after a few drinks. It doesn't mean letting the person with the fewest drinks get behind the wheel, although studies show that younger drinkers choose that method more often than choosing a designated driver.

It means not driving, period. It means using a designated driver who has not had a drink. It means calling a friend, family member or calling a cab.

A person who gets behind the wheel takes not only their life in their own hands when they choose to drive, but also their passengers and other people on the road as well.

They also face a stiff punishment should they be stopped by city, county and state law enforcement, ranging from an embarrassing DUI charge that could have a bearing on future employment to a manslaughter charge should a death occur in an accident where alcohol is involved.

County residents who drink over the holiday period should remember all of those things before even thinking about whether or not to drive home from that New Year's celebration.

The life they save could be their own.

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