Holiday safety reminders

SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. -- With two federal holidays and a no-fly week in between, all of us will have more free time to spend with our friends and families.

In the Air Force, we certainly work hard and need to take advantage of this time to relax and have some fun. However, remember that when you have worked hard and want to play hard, you need to play smart as well! The two aren't mutually exclusive. With that in mind I want to pass along a few tips that will help keep the holidays both enjoyable and safe.

Travel safety: In spite of high gas costs, this holiday season promises to be the busiest on record for traveling. One of the best things you can do to ensure your holiday travel goes well is take some time and build a good plan for your trip. Inspect your vehicle to ensure it's road-worthy for the duration and destination of your trip. Snow chains might be something worth having in the trunk depending on where you are going, as well as checking to see if your antifreeze mixture in the radiator is good.

Another prudent idea is to pre-plan where you will take breaks along the way. As a rule of thumb, you should stop every two hours or so. Taking frequent breaks will reduce your fatigue level, making you a more alert and safe driver. Additionally, your trip will be more enjoyable if you take the time to see the sights along your route of travel. I think that we often miss the beauty of our great nation because we are in such a hurry to get where we are going.

You also need to remember to wear your seatbelt, or if you are on a motorcycle your personal protective equipment. Wearing a seatbelt or the appropriate protective equipment greatly increases your chances of survival if you are in a crash.

Finally, don't plan on working all day and then driving all night. Even if you don't have very far to go, realize that heavier than normal holiday traffic conditions and winter weather can turn your short trip into a long ordeal with little or no warning.

The bottom line is that you need to be well rested before you climb behind the wheel. I know that I can speak for your friends and family when I say that they would rather spend a few less hours with you than have you fall asleep at the wheel and be injured or killed in the resulting crash.

Holiday cooking: While cooking this holiday season be careful to follow directions and not undercook any poultry products. Also be mindful of children when cooking with hot products.

Holiday parties: If you are hosting a party, you need to remember that you can be held legally responsible for injuries or damages that occur as a result of alcohol you served, even after the guest has left your party.

The first step in reducing the risk of something unfortunate occurring is to have a plan! Think about how you will deal with guests who drink too much and ask reliable friends to help keep things under control and the consumption to a moderate level.

High protein and high carbohydrate foods like cheese, meats, veggies, breads, and light dips are a good choice. They not only taste good, they also don't make guests as thirsty as salty, sweet or greasy foods will.

It is also important to ensure that plenty of non-alcoholic beverages are available as well. Another good idea is to consider mixing the drinks yourself, or appointing a responsible bartender. By controlling the amount of alcohol served, your guests will be less likely to have too much. Only the passage of time will allow the human body to rid itself of alcohol.

You also need to ensure your guests can get home safely once they leave the party. Some good ideas include taking everyone's car keys when they arrive, having designated drivers readily available, and having cash and phone numbers on hand for taxi-cab service.

Finally, if you are the guest at a party, take responsibility for your own behavior. Don't drink if you are underage. If you are old enough to drink, do so in moderation only and, of course, don't drink and drive. Also, be a good wingman and check the six for others.

When asked what his greatest accomplishment was, the highest scoring fighter ace of all time, Eric Hartmann, said it wasn't his 352 air-to-air kills ... it was the fact that he never lost a wingman in more than 1,000 combat missions. Maybe never losing a wingman should be your goal too!