When New Year’s Eve comes around, there’s a lot to celebrate: a new year, the closing out of the previous one, and the possibilities of the future. Short days and long nights, along with lots of people out enjoying themselves, can impact safety during this holiday – and a safety or health issue isn’t a great way to start out the year. Here are a few tips to keep your New Year's celebrations safe in Montana.
You’ll see a lot of tips here about how alcohol and cars don’t mix, and that’s for good reason. Driving under the influence of alcohol and other drugs hurts your ability to react and make decisions, making you a hazard to yourself and others on the road. Plus, it’s illegal and comes with a heavy toll in DUIs and fines. In Montana, drunk drivers account for 43% of vehicle accident deaths. Any lives lost are too many.
The best way to prevent making a bad decision when you’re under the influence is to not give yourself the option. Plan to get a ride to and from your party destination, that way you don’t have to make any decisions late in the night. Do right by your friends and care for them in the same way. Take away their keys if you need to, and help them find a way to get home safely.
In Bozeman, Streamline runs a free, late night bus service to popular areas of town that you can take advantage of. Bozeman and Belgrade have Uber and Lyft, along with traditional taxi companies. Having a designated driver in your group can also be a safer way to get around.
Even if you’re being safe and responsible by not driving intoxicated, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a great idea to be on the roads on New Year’s. Black ice, snowy conditions, and other intoxicated drivers out there can create an unsafe environment on the road. If you can celebrate at home or at a friend’s house, or rent a hotel room or a backcountry cabin where you can enjoy the evening without having to go out, you might be better off.
If you’re enjoying an adult beverage or two, it’s a good idea to enjoy in moderation and make sure you drink some water in between rounds to stay hydrated. Alcohol is a diuretic, which means it makes you have to urinate more. The more you pee, the more likely you’ll become dehydrated. You might notice thirst, lightheadedness, or dizziness if this gets too bad. Ask for a glass of water when it’s your turn to buy, or opt for a soda or seltzer to hydrate between drinks.
Fireworks are a lot of fun, and they can make for a spectacular nighttime display. But if you’re setting off fireworks on New Year’s, make sure to keep safety in mind. Alcohol and explosives don’t mix, so be sure to stay sober if you’re lighting any. And light fireworks well away from others or buildings that could be hit if you have a misfire.
It’s also important to know the laws where you live. Bozeman allows fireworks only for a few hours on the holiday, Belgrade’s window is even shorter, and in Livingston they’re not allowed at all. West Yellowstone allows fireworks only in certain areas within city limits. Check-in with your community to find out the regulations.
If you’re walking from bar to bar and you’re a little buzzed, you might not notice the cold right away. It’s certainly still there, and alcohol doesn’t keep you warmer, but it can keep you from noticing the cold until it’s too late. You don’t want frostbite or hypothermia to derail your plans. Be sure to bundle up with a coat, hat, and gloves ready when you head out into the chill.
As the Covid-19 pandemic continues, think about how your New Year’s plans could affect your health. Limiting parties to a smaller group or enjoying patio time around the fire pit can be good ways to reduce your risk and the risk to others. Getting a flu shot and a Covid-19 vaccine can help protect you from viruses that could put a damper on your winter.
Where health and safety is concerned, CHP is here to support you. Reach out to your closest clinic, whether in Belgrade, Bozeman or Livingston for access to affordable healthcare services whenever you need them.