SIKESTON -- Be sure to thank your designated driver this holiday season -- or to say "No, thanks" to alcoholic beverages.
As the kickoff for the holiday season, Thanksgiving is a time when people return home to visit family and friends, catch up and celebrate, noted Sgt. Jim McMillen, public information officer for the Sikeston Department of Public Safety, in a press release.
McMillen said the night before Thanksgiving is one of the most popular nights for people to go to bars.
"We have a nice crowd," confirmed Joyce Winchester, owner of Cheers Bar & Grill. "A lot of people come home to be with their families from out of town. It's not just kids -- a lot of people come home to see their families for the holiday. And after they are done with the family stuff they see friends."
"I'd put it up there with New Years -- it's really close," said Danny Bridger, owner of Danny's Place. "The night before and the night after Thanksgiving is a full house. The day of Thanksgiving is not that big; they're spending more time with the family."
As one of the year's biggest party nights -- and a night when many folks are still traveling to arrive a their destination for Thanksgiving -- it is also one of the most dangerous nights to travel, according to McMillen.
McMillen said DPS officers will be out in force next week actively seeking out impaired drivers, speeders, those not wearing seatbelts and those driving in an unsafe manner.
Sikeston DPS will also participate in the Missouri Department of Transportation's 2008 Holiday DWI Driving Campaign Dec. 8-14 during which there will be a statewide effort at similar enforcement efforts.
Bridger said while the best plan is not to get intoxicated during holiday celebrations, Danny's Place is planning on having a transportation service for those who do consume alcoholic beverages.
Cheers will also be taking measures to prevent their patrons from getting behind the wheel after drinking.
"This year we've got a connection with someone who's got a bus," she said. "He does have a charge -- it depends on the distance."
Winchester advised those who celebrate the upcoming holidays by using alcohol to "not overdo it: be responsible, be careful. Don't let your pride get in the way -- go ahead and take the ride. It's better than a DWI or going to jail."
Ultimately, it is the responsibility of those who are drinking to not drive and those who plan to drive to not drink.
"Without your support, we cannot effectively combat the impaired driving problem," McMillen said in the press release. "We don't want to see any tragedies this holiday season due to someone drinking and thinking they are alright to drive. It's never worth the risk."
Here are some tips to help you make it home alive:
* Don't risk it: If you plan to drive, don't drink
* Encourage safe driving behaviors among family and friends
* Choose a designated driver BEFORE going out. A designated driver is someone who drinks NO alcohol.
* If you've had drinks, ask a friend to drive you home or take a taxi.
* Party hosts should also offer alcohol-free beverages.
* Report impaired drivers to law enforcement.
* Wear your seatbelt -- it's your best defense against an impaired driver.
Source: Sikeston Department of Public Safety