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OUR VIEW: Tips for celebrating New Year’s safely

We’ll ring in the start of a new year, and a new decade, next Wednesday, but it’s likely many people will start their celebrations as soon as this weekend.

That’s what happens when major holidays fall into the middle of a workweek. (If you haven’t looked at the calendar next year yet, both Christmas and New Year’s are on Fridays.) 

New Year’s celebrations mean fireworks, and many will set off their own over the next few nights.  It is legal in Georgia to shoot off fireworks, thanks a change in state law in 2016. On New Year’s Eve specifically, state law allows fireworks to be shot off until 1 a.m. 

We urge caution, no matter what you do on New Year’s Eve.

A lot of people will spend the night out drinking with friends and family. If that’s the case, we recommend making a plan for the night and appointing a designated driver to ensure everyone gets home safely. We’re sure local law enforcement is looking out for impaired drivers this weekend and on Tuesday night.

There are going to be millions of people on the roadways coming home from Christmas and others heading to New Year’s celebrations, so if you’re driving make sure to keep your eyes on the vehicles around you. 

Of course, fireworks are the star of any New Year’s celebration. Since we’ve already brought up alcohol, we’ll lead with this — fireworks and drinking do not mix, so don’t do them together.

Fireworks can be dangerous enough without adding alcohol to the mix. According to the National Fire Prevention Association, an average of 18,500 fires are started by fireworks every year. An average 1,300 structure and 300 vehicle fires are caused by fireworks. 

In 2017, 12,900 people were treated for fireworks related injuries at emergency rooms. Children under 15 accounted for more than a third of fireworks related injuries, according to the NFPA.

Fireworks should never be handled by young children and older children should be supervised when handling fireworks of any kind. Fireworks should never be pointed at another person, residence or car or anything flammable. 

We’ve talked to local leaders about fireworks over the years and their solution is almost always to go see a professional show.  The closest one to us is probably at Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, and there is an admission charge, but at least you know you’ll be safe. 

There’s also one other thing to consider this New Year’s Eve — your pets. Animals do not understand fireworks and often get spooked and upset when they hear repeated loud noises that they can’t see. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals recommends turning on soft music and moving your pet to an interior room. The ASPCA also recommends trying an anxiety vest or putting your pet in a snuggly t-shirt to give it some comfort. 

Remember, fireworks are a fun way to celebrate the new year, but they have the potential to become hazardous. They’re not worth risking your life. 

Think twice on how you want to celebrate the New Year.

We hope these tips help, and wish everyone a happy new year.