Our Opinion: Start the new year with safety

A new year traditionally is a time for new beginnings.

The New Year’s holiday, however, traditionally has been dangerous. During last year’s holiday counting period, Missouri recorded 1,615 traffic crashes, including 12 fatalities and 517 injury accidents.

That’s a lot of misery to begin a new year.

The first order of business is don’t drink and drive. New Year’s celebrations frequently involve alcohol, so plan accordingly.

Abstaining from drinking, having a designated driver or contacting the Sober Driver program are alternatives.

“Nothing ruins a party like a DWI arrest or a drinking-related traffic crash on your way home,” according to the Missouri Highway Patrol, which is among the agencies that will be enforcing traffic laws during the holiday. The patrol reminds motorists: “If you cause a traffic crash, your new year might bring getting arrested, legal fees, medical bills, or jail time! You face the possibility of losing your license and will have to face your family and friends. If you kill or injure someone, you’ll pay the price for the rest of your life.”

The patrol also reminds motorists to obey all traffic laws and speed limits, and to be courteous and attentive.

Snowy or icy conditions may be a factor this time of year. The patrol recommends motorists clean snow and ice from their vehicles and make sure windows are completely clean for maximum visibility. Turning on headlights increases visibility and helps prevent accidents.

Being a smart, sober motorist is an excellent start, but drivers also are cautioned to be aware of those who are not.

And, just as sobriety is among the most important proactive measures, buckling up is a vital defensive measure.

Even the most attentive drivers are not immune from being involved in a crash. If or when an accident happens, seat belts offer the best protection.

A Happy New Year begins with a safe start.

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