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Holidays bring on risks
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The holiday season, which is a time of celebration and social activities, is here again. It is also a time of increased risk because of shopping-related traffic congestion and collisions; for some, it is a very sad time of the year and, unfortunately, it is a time that criminals eagerly anticipate. With a bit of preparation and foresight, you can dramatically decrease your chances of having problems during the holiday season.

Christmas brings extra threats for becoming a victim of theft. In terms of your homes, do not leave gifts or other valuable items in view of people passing by. Lock your home, even when leaving it "for only a few minutes." When shopping, park near a well-lit area, lock all doors and be sure to keep presents and other valuables out of sight. Try not to park your car near vans or other vehicles that have tinted windows. Those tinted windows could be concealing someone who is casing the parking lot in search of things to steal. You can expect that at any given time, there will be criminals watching from a distance. If they see you place a purse, gifts or other items in the passenger area or trunk, you might well become a victim of auto burglary.

For personal protection, try to shop in pairs or groups, keeping wallets and purses close to you, making it difficult for anyone to take them from you. It is also best not to wear expensive jewelry when on a shopping expedition. The holiday season includes more hours of darkness, which provides criminals cover and leaves you more vulnerable than during daylight hours. When returning to your car, have your keys in hand and ready to go. It is not wise to fumble for keys while standing in the dark next to your car. Have the keys ready, be alert to what is going on around you, check the interior, and then waste no time getting into your vehicle. Lock your doors once inside, and do not open the window or door for anyone you do not know and trust.

There can be a lot of stress during the holiday season. Many of us try to do too much without enough time. This causes us to take chances in traffic, like speeding, running red lights, etc. It is not worth it, and it is much better to slow down a bit, lower your expectations and count on the unexpected things to slow you down. Waiting until the last minute to run errands and makes preparations greatly increases the "hurry" factor and tends to set people up for mishaps.

Alcohol is the bane of the holiday season. People simply seem to drink more during this time of the year. The many office parties, home gatherings and other social events usually involve alcohol. Use a designated driver to avoid the problems and dangers of drunk driving. A designated driver is the person who does not drink alcohol at all for a given event, and is responsible for getting everyone home safely. The designated driver is not the person who has had the least to drink. Half of all traffic fatalities involve intoxicated motorists. Please do not be one these! Also, keep in mind, all police agencies in this county deploy extra officers specially tasked with enforcing drunk-driving laws. These officers do not give warnings. Drunk drivers can count on a trip to jail along with very costly financial consequences. A drunk-driving arrest is the better scenario, as too often the drunk driver injures or kills others or themselves.

Finally, keep in mind there are many lonely people who have no one with them during the holidays. They may be suffering from depression owing to neglect and having fallen out of mainstream society. We need to look out for and help these individuals. A few kind words, a visit, a small gift, or just a smile can make a huge difference to them. The holiday season has its challenges, but it truly gives us all an excuse to give to others or to care for those who have little or no social connections - the lonely, the disenfranchised, and the infirm.

Enjoy a safe and happy holiday season.