Five ways to stay safe in Sacramento during New Year’s Eve

Bee guide to getting home safe on New Year's Eve

The Bee's Ed Fletcher offers tips on how to get home safe on New Year's Eve. Additional photography by Randell Benton, Jose Louis Villegas, AP and CHP.
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The Bee's Ed Fletcher offers tips on how to get home safe on New Year's Eve. Additional photography by Randell Benton, Jose Louis Villegas, AP and CHP.

This Saturday, crowds of revelers will pack midtown and downtown Sacramento’s streets, ready to bid farewell to 2016 and ring in the New Year with a drink in hand.

Unfortunately, late-night barhopping or even at-home celebrations come with potentially deadly — but avoidable —risks. With parties and drink specials at every bar in town, it’s easy to get swept up in celebration and push it too far.

Local law enforcement takes New Year’s seriously and will have extra officers stationed in busy areas, said Sacramento Police Department spokeswoman Linda Matthew. Fifty officers will patrol Old Sacramento Saturday night, while other police watch over bars around downtown and midtown.

The Sacramento Fire Department will also have personnel on the streets, said spokesman Chris Harvey. The department sees a higher than usual number of injuries that night, largely due to drunken driving and other poor judgment calls.

“People have a tendency to overindulge on New Year’s Eve - they’re celebrating,” he said. “By all accounts, 2016 has been a particularly bad year for a number of people. There are normal health risks associated with overconsumption - illness, disorientation, accidents in the home. Just take it easy. Make sure you’re doing everything in moderation.”

Here are some other tips for staying healthy and happy while you usher in 2017:

Know your limit

Binge drinking can lead to alcohol poisoning, a life-threatening condition marked by vomiting, strained breathing and seizures. Avoid alcohol poisoning by consuming alcohol in moderation and taking in water between drinks.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention define binge drinking as excessive alcohol consumption that puts someone over the legal blood alcohol level, 0.08 percent. This typically occurs after five drinks within two hours for men or four drinks within two hours for women.

Terry Sidie, owner of Faces nightclub, said he calls in extra managers and security guards for New Year’s Eve to keep an eye on anyone who might be drinking unhealthy amounts.

“They’re looking out for people who are celebrating and overimbibing,” he said. “I can walk through a room and tell you who might end up being out of control. You just have to watch.”

Don’t drive

If you plan to drink on New Year’s Eve, always designate a sober driver or plan to call a taxi or ride-sharing company such as Uber or Lyft. Sacramento revelers also can take Regional Transit trains and buses for free on Saturday.

About nine alcohol-related car accidents happened, on average, each New Year's Day in Sacramento County between 2013 and 2015. Another seven accidents happened, on average, on New Year Eve. Those accidents resulted in a total of one death and 44 injuries during that period, according to a Bee review of accident data from the California Highway Patrol.

The average number of alcohol-related accidents in Sacramento County on New Year's Eve was about 25 percent higher than the average across all days between 2013 and 2015. The average number of New Year's Day accidents was about 65 percent higher than the average across all days, The Bee found.

To be sure, demand for rides will be high on New Year’s Eve. Ride-sharing apps such as Uber and Lyft will adjust pricing depending on demand at certain hours, also known as “surge pricing.” Check for surge pricing in advance and consider calling around to standard cab companies, who do not alter fares during peak times.

Watch the cork

Your champagne bottle could be the unexpected culprit that sends you to the emergency room this New Year’s. A popped cork can travel up to 50 mph, according to the Vision Eye Institute, an Australian ophthalmology clinic. That’s fast enough to tear a cornea or damage the retina, resulting in vision loss.

Avoid champagne injuries by pointing the bottle away from yourself, or anyone else, before undoing the safety wire. Don’t point the bottle toward a wall, which can deflect the cork back toward your face. Experts also recommend chilling the champagne beforehand, as a warm bottle is more likely to pop unexpectedly.

Supervise your cocktail

Don’t leave a cocktail unattended, warns the Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District.

Even if you go to the bathroom while partying in public, leave your drink with a friend, the district recommends. Abandoned drinks can be spiked with drugs or alcohol, often sending the drinker into a state of confusion and vulnerability.

Skip the fireworks, firearms

All fireworks, even those purchased legally for use during the Fourth of July, are forbidden on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day in the county of Sacramento, said Harvey. Each year on New Year’s, the Sacramento Fire Department responds to multiple calls of fires and injuries caused by home fireworks, he said.

As an alternative, check out city-organized, professional fireworks set off at 9 p.m. along the Sacramento River off Old Sacramento.

The fire department also responds to a higher-than-usual number of gunshot wounds as a result of people shooting their firearms in celebration, he said.

“Every year on New Year’s Eve at midnight, local law enforcement sees a spike in the number of people that go outside and shoot guns in the air,” Harvey said. “It happens every year, and it’s obviously an extremely dangerous thing to do. Every bullet that goes up in the air has to come down somewhere.”

Sammy Caiola: 916-321-1636, @SammyCaiola