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HomeNewsArchivesDrinking, Driving and Local Terrain a Bad Mix, Experts Say

Drinking, Driving and Local Terrain a Bad Mix, Experts Say

Dec. 30, 2006 — Depending on where you live in the Virgin Islands, navigating hilly terrain and hairpin turns can prove a challenge — especially when you add alcohol to the mix.
As the holiday weekend gets into high gear, the V.I. Police Department and advocates for drug and alcohol abuse are reminding residents to know their limits and not drink and drive. Around the territory, police will step up drinking-and-driving road checks to ensure that those celebrating on Old Year's Night will stick around to ring in 2007, according to Police Spokesperson Shawna Richards.
According to statistics from AAA, alcohol is a factor in about 40 percent of the more than 40,000 deaths that occur each year in vehicle accidents. On its website, the agency notes that more than 16,000 people die every year in alcohol-related traffic crashes and that every year 1.5 million people get arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs.
"We are asking motorists to exercise caution on the roads," Richards said. "We are asking everyone to practice safe driving, especially during our New Year's celebrations."
On the island of St. Croix, especially, residents have plenty of reasons to celebrate this year: New Year's Eve and the Crucian Christmas Festival, which will culminate next Saturday with the Adult's Parade in Frederiksted. There are inaugural parties territorywide for Gov.-elect John P. deJongh and Lt. Gov.-elect Gregory R. Francis. Two balls are scheduled Jan. 1 on St. Thomas and three Jan. 2 on St. Croix, followed by a third on St. John Jan. 3.
"We are asking residents to drink responsibly, choose and use a designated driver and wear your seatbelts," Richards said, adding that motorists should look out for those who may be in trouble.
"When on the roads, be an advocate for safety and report any unsafe or erratic driving to police by calling 911," she said.
While the holidays give reasons to be merry, it is a time of worry for advocates such as Al-Anon, Alcoholic Anonymous and COAST, the Council on Alcohol Dependency of St. Thomas-St. John.
"We support a designated driver, and if you drink, don't drive," cautioned Ray Joseph, COAST president.
Those who drink occasionally should also be careful, he said
"If you drink, drink in moderation, especially around the holidays," Joseph said. "And in our culture, you should be careful what you drink."
A little bit of guavaberry or wine may be problematic to individuals who don't drink in moderation, he said. Guavaberry rum and wine are holiday staples in the territory — so much so that they have inspired a popular song.
Holidays are especially rough on recovering alcoholics because of the temptation served up with free-flowing drinks at homes, offices and formal celebrations, Joseph said. COAST, he said, once owned a "unity home" where recovering alcoholics could seek educational counseling or get encouragement to seek help in battling alcohol. But the home closed about two years ago, he said, making it difficult to keep statistics about alcoholism in the territory. Joseph said he hopes to have the home reopened sometime next year.
"There's a lot of work to be done, but that's our goal," he said.
Both Richards and Joseph said that residents can be choosy in attending celebrations if they feel they won't be able to fight the temptation to drink. Excessive drinking can lead to accidents, hangovers and even unwanted calories. Celebrants can have a great holiday without overdoing the alcohol — or avoiding it altogether, Joseph said.
"A recovering alcoholic should not drink at all," he emphasized.
Tips on how to control drinking over the holidays:
— Attend only the parties you really want to go to. One office party, for example, is sufficient.
— Opt for club soda or sparkling mineral water instead of an alcoholic drink. No one will know the difference except you.
— Eat something before you begin drinking. It will help the alcohol get absorbed more slowly.
— Steer clear of the punch bowl unless you know for a fact that it's weak on booze. Some punches mixed with alcohol can be quite potent.
— Drink a glass of wine instead of a mixed drink or hard liquor. Drink it slowly and make it last.
— Arrive close to mealtime if invited to a dinner party. This way you will bypass the before-dinner drinks.
— Snack while you drink. Food helps the alcohol get absorbed more slowly.
— Drink a glass or two of water in between drinks to prevent dehydration.
— Have a glass of water before going to bed. It might lessen the effects of a hangover.
— If hosting your own holiday party, offer virgin punches and eggnog as an alternative to alcoholic drinks. The extra effort will be appreciated by guests trying to cut down on alcohol.
— Do not drink and drive. If you drink alcohol at a party, take a taxi home or have someone pick you up.
Tips collected by Source Staff.
Contact COAST at 779-6364.
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