By CALEB CALHOUN
6:47 PM EST, December 31, 2012
Dean Hamburg had plans with his wife and family for New Year’s Eve but said the number of people who drive under the influence around that time would keep him off the road late.
“I teach Driver’s Ed, and I know there’s too many irresponsible people on the road at that time of night,” Hamburg, 44, of Hagerstown, said. “When I would go out in the past, my wife was always the designated driver because she doesn’t drink.”
On New Year’s Day in 2011, there were 122 killed in traffic accidents — 50 percent involved drunken drivers, according to Ragina Avarella of AAA who was citing the most recently available data.
Area residents who said they might drink on New Year’s Eve talked about things they would do to avoid drinking and driving Monday night or Tuesday morning.
“My friend’s wife is the designated driver because she’s pregnant,” said Marcus Ammons of Hagerstown, who planned on going to a house party in West Virginia.
Ammons, 23, also listed ways in the past he had avoided driving if he had been drinking when he went out.
“I didn’t go home, I stayed out all night, and if I did go home, I called my mom or my brother to pick me up,” he said. “(A cab) is the last resort. I hate to have to spend any extra money.”
Rachel Burkhart, 21, of Martinsburg, W.Va., who was planning to go to a friend’s house to watch the New Year’s Eve Ball Drop, also had multiple plans in place to avoid drinking and driving home.
“Hopefully one of our friends would not drink and drive us home, or we would just stay the night at our friend’s house,” she said. “Usually on New Year’s I just stay wherever I’m at.”
In the past, AAA had a “Tipsy? Taxi!” program in Baltimore, which gave free taxi rides during popular holidays known for partying, but it is not in operation for New Year’s Day, according to AAA.
Barefoot Bernie’s restaurant manager and Cancun Cantina bouncer John Rudolph talked about how he would deal with people who drink too much at the Cancun Cantina New Year’s Eve Party.
“We have constant cabs running, and we’ll call cabs for people to get them home safely,” he said. “We have a staff of about 20 to 25 security officers working.”
Rudolph added that he would work with the bartenders to stop serving drinks to people if they appear to have already had too much.
“It’s the bartenders’ jobs as well as ours to recognize who’s staggering or drowsy,” he said. “Maybe they drank too fast or didn’t drink enough water or had nothing to eat, so we won’t kick them out, but we might get them a cup of water.”
However, Rudolph said that people who were causing problems would be escorted out professionally.
“Our job is to protect the people who want to just have a good time from the two or three people who can’t,” he said.
Nationally throughout 2011, there were 9,878 alcohol related deaths, 162 of which were in Maryland, according to a news release from AAA. That’s actually a 2.5 percent decrease from 2010, though.
Falling Waters, W.Va., resident Mark Clevenger, 24, was planning to drink on New Year’s Eve as well, but he had a simple plan to avoid drinking and driving.
“Stay at home and drink,” Clevenger, who was planning to spend New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day at home with his family, said. “You don’t have to drive if you’re bed’s already upstairs.”
Isabel Scott, 22, of Shippensburg, Pa., however, was planning to go to the anchor drop in downtown Shippensburg. She said that she did not plan to drink but was prepared if she would.
“I live within walking distance of where I’m going so I could walk home,” she said.
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