It’s that time of year again, and many of you are probably making plans to celebrate the new year. Based on conversations I’ve had recently, increasing numbers of people will be skipping the classic party scene and instead spend a quiet evening at home with family and friends.

But many of you will likely be leaving the warmth and comfort of your home to participate in more traditional New Year’s Eve celebrations at hotels, restaurants or banquet halls. If you’re one of them, remind yourself that the basic rules of safety and self-defense still apply, with some additional considerations that the holiday brings.

Heads Up!

With high spirits and happy music making for a very upbeat environment, situational awareness can easily suffer. Remind yourself that criminals never take a holiday. They will be out and about New Year’s Eve, searching for those who look unaware and vulnerable.

So, please, PLEASE stay off your cellphone! Having your head buried in your phone not only seriously reduces your awareness, but it is also essentially a “pick me!” signal to muggers, rapists and car-jackers. Don’t make it easy for them.

Also, when parking your vehicle in a commercial or entertainment area, be vigilant about your surroundings. Don’t be reluctant to pay for a secure facility. The few bucks you save by parking on some dark side street will mean little if you wind up in the emergency room … or worse.

It’s Called ‘Amateur Night’ for a Reason

My many friends in law enforcement will confirm that New Year’s Eve is a particularly dangerous time to travel, whether you are heading to another state or merely across town. Nationwide, DUI arrests begin to rise starting around Thanksgiving, finally peaking on New Year’s Eve.

According to AAA, the probability of getting into a vehicular crash soars on New Year’s Eve. Note that it isn’t just driving that is more dangerous. Surprisingly, more pedestrians are killed on New Year’s Eve than any other day of the year!

Those of us who carry firearms tend to avoid drinking when driving and/or carrying under normal circumstances. But on New Year’s Eve, law enforcement will be out in full force. Your chances of being pulled over are much higher than normal. Especially if you’re carrying, avoiding alcohol altogether is just smart.

‘Alcohol Was a Factor’

Think about how many times those words have appeared in the news reports of some violent incident. Whenever a group of people gets together and drugs or alcohol are involved, things can get ugly very quickly. Even weddings have resulted in drunken brawls!

For those of us who will be carrying firearms, we need to be prepared for such situations. Even if we ourselves stay 100 percent sober, it’s New Year’s Eve. There is an increased possibility of crossing paths with people who are intoxicated. If you are out and about, pay close attention to everyone around you.

Be aware that anyone you meet may be impaired. Watch for signals that may warn you of potential violence: angry voices, yelling, pushing and shoving. The earlier in the process you notice the warning signs, the better you will be able to take evasive action. As always, avoidance is always preferable to having to resort to force.

Have fun this New Year’s Eve. Just be sure you remember to follow your basic self-defense protocols. Be smart. Be safe.

Happy New Year!