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Editorial: The season for DWIs

Dart to one of the less cheerful traditions of the holiday season ó the increase in drunken-driving accidents and fatalities that occurs each year near the end of December. David Kelley, acting administrator of the National highway Traffic Safety Administration, calls the alcohol-fatality increase a “fact of life” for law-enforcement and emergency workers nationwide, and it’s one that appears rooted in the festive atmosphere. Safety experts say Christmas parties and other get-togethers increase alcohol consumption, and too many tipplers then get behind the wheel. Young adults who are just beyond the legal drinking age appear to be at highest risk. Drivers aged 21 to 24 are involved in more fatal drunken-driving crashes than any other age group, NHTSA data indicates. That age group will be targeted as the government launches a new advertising campaign to publicize increased drunken-driving enforcement over the next few weeks. But that doesn’t mean older motorists are immune to the problem. The season of good will offers no protection for drivers of any age who are under the influence.
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Laurels to Dan Nicholas Park assistant naturalist Mike Lambert for boosting local participation in the annual Big Sweep fall cleanup, which removes tons of litter from the shores of local waterways. As coordinator of the event in Rowan County, Lambert might be considered the Pied Piper of trash pickups, having increased participation in the event from nine volunteers in 2007 to 109 in 2008, an achievement that recently won him a statewide Big Sweep award. Readers may also recognize his name for another reason. He’s a well-known local musician who wrote and performed the “Ballad of Ramblin’ Red,” recounting the adventures of the red wolf that escaped from Dan Nicholas a few years ago (and was ultimately safely recaptured).
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Dart to the dark, dreary days of winter, which officially begins Sunday with the winter solstice, marking the shortest day and longest night of the year. For the sunlight-deprivation sufferers among us who are already longing for spring, there’s another way to measure the seasons. The National Weather Service considers winter to extend from Dec. 1 to Feb. 28. By that method, winter is already almost one-fourth gone, with only 69 days left until spring. Even if you reject this as just another subterfuge involving government accounting methods, you can celebrate the solstice anyway ó and remember, whichever calendar you follow, only four more shopping days until Christmas.

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