Weekly challenge: safety tips for ringing in the New Year

Not to put a damper on the joys of ringing in the New Year, but studies show that on New Year’s Eve, nearly four times as many people are admitted to the emergency room than on any other day of the year. Most of the ER admissions stem from alcohol-related incidents—like drinking to the point of toxicity or being involved in an alcohol-related driving accident.

Here are some prevention tips:

1. Avoid alcohol poisoning. Drinking too much over a short period of time can lead to alcohol poisoning. The body can process and excrete about one drink per hour -- 12-ounces of beer, 5-ounces of wine, 1.5-ounce shot of liquor—so when you drink more quickly than that, your blood alcohol level will climb into the inebriation zone. You should also avoid drinking on an empty stomach since having food in your stomach will help slow alcohol absorption. And stay hydrated by drinking a glass of water after every drink. It’s also smart to know your limit and stop after two or three drinks even when spaced out over several hours, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

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Seek emergency medical attention if you or someone close to you experiences excessive vomiting, stupor, slowed or infrequent-breathing patterns, seizures, confusion, or an inability to wake up after passing out. Here are five drinking mistakes to avoid.

2. Pop the champagne cork safely. I have a healthy fear of champagne corks and always pass the bottle to someone else to pop. Improper uncorking can potentially cause eye injuries including blindness, bleeding, a rupture of the eye wall, retinal detachment, and damage to the eye’s bone structure, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

To uncork the bottle without any mishaps, watch the how-to video above. Here’s a synopsis: chill the champagne to 45 degrees Fahrenheit or colder before opening, and don’t shake the bottle—both of which can cause the cork to dislodge unexpectedly. Point the bottle at a 45-degree angle away from yourself and others standing nearby. Hold down the cork with the palm of your hand while removing the wire hood on the bottle. Twist the bottle while holding the cork to break the seal. Counter the force of the cork by pushing down slightly as the cork breaks free from the bottle.

3. Be wary of hazardous drivers in the wee hours. New Year’s is the single deadliest night for car accidents involving pedestrians, and it’s also associated with a higher risk of deaths for those traveling in cars. Some obvious safety tips including never drinking or driving; make sure to have a designated driver, or reserve a taxi.

If you’re walking outside on city streets after midnight, try to travel in groups to create a safety net for drowsy drivers who may not see a single pedestrian crossing the road late at night. Since drinking and driving car accidents are highest between 8 p.m. and 2 a.m., try to stay off the roads during those hours. If you must drive on New Year’s Eve, drive defensively being aware of your surroundings and drivers swerving in and out of lanes. Call the police if you see anything illegal or suspicious taking place. And, yes, buckle up, and don’t use your cellphone while driving.