Let’s be safe tonight

Maui winds up another calendar year tonight and this is the night that is universally regarded as an occasion for parties that may or may not include setting off firecrackers or fireworks.

The fireworks tradition came to the island with the Chinese, who were among the first immigrants. One is credited with setting up the first sugar mill in the islands. The Chinese, who invented gunpowder and used it for pyrotechnics for years before employing it in weapons, believed the loud noises and flashes of fire frightened evil spirits, improving chances for a prosperous new year.

Mauians with pets should be prepared to keep them indoors, or, at the very least, make sure they are wearing identification. More than one Mauian has lost a companion animal when it became frightened and ran off.

Fireworks are a pleasure or an annoyance but the real danger on New Year’s Eve is drinking and driving. It seems almost redundant to write about what can happen when an impaired driver operates a ton of potentially lethal metal, but it is something that should be considered soberly.

Ringing in the new year with a glass of bubbly – at a private home or at one of Maui’s many dining and drinking establishments – is almost as traditional as eating sashimi and roe or singing choruses of “Auld Lang Syne” and kissing a loved one at the stroke of midnight. It’s what happens before and after the traditional glass is drunk that is important.

Before the festivities begin, pick one person to stay sober for the drive home. At the end of the festivities, as the oft-repeated commercial says, “Friends don’t let friends drink and drive.”

A new year is a time of hope and anticipation. It should not be a time for avoidable highway tragedies; there are more than enough tragedies in the world to go around.

To you and yours, hau’oli makahiki hou.

(A version of this editorial has appeared previously in The Maui News.)

* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.