As you gather with family and friends for New Year's Eve celebrations saying goodbye to 2021 and hello to 2022, there are a few friendly reminders of how to behave on and off the roads so everyone can close out this year and begin the new year in a safe manner.

Let's start with the roads.

Police want you to be safe and everyone else as well out there and that's not just a don't drink and drive reminder but a request to behave with more congested roads.

As for going to and from gatherings or parties -- drive sober.

"There are so many options out there with designated drivers and ride share with Lyft or Uber, it's so easy not to drive," Toms River Police Chief Mitch Little told Townsquare Media News on 'Jersey Shore Journal' this past Sunday morning.

There's even less of an excuse to drink and drive in the advent of ride sharing services and the designated driver option which has always been around.

That being said, some people if even they're not smashed still head out after 1-2 or 3-5 drinks and maybe only feel a little buzzed -- but that's also a problem and a no-no.

"A lot of people that drive -- they're under the false impression that they can drive and they probably shouldn't be because we always say being slightly buzzed is intoxicated and is impaired, so if you feel slightly buzzed you are impaired so you shouldn't drive," Chief Little said.

We all want to be rid of the Covid pandemic and all it's variants, but given the current state of the pandemic it may not happen anytime soon.

Many people will gather regardless on New Year's Eve in large gatherings to celebrate the ending of one year and the beginning of a new one but also to vent off frustrations of a 2-year pandemic.

Whether it's on the roads or in someone's home or a restaurant/bar, and with or without a pandemic in place, there are plenty of rules you need to abide by for everyone's safety.

"I think that a lot of people have missed some important events and holidays and even though we still are fighting the pandemic, I think this is in the wake of recovery right now, and I think that people are putting a lot of emphasis into get togethers and gatherings and seeing family and friends," Chief Little said.

With all that said, Chief Little believes some people may have the desire to party even more or with more people.

"We have to make sure that we still maintain our composure and don't let it get out of hand," Chief Little said. "Have a good time but stay responsible at the same time."

Whether drunk/intoxicated in any way or sober, you are tasked with being responsible in whatever way you plan on celebrating the New Year and that includes fireworks and other noisemakers.

While the weather is certainly cooler on December 31 as oppose to July 4, this is still a concern for New Year's Eve celebrations near and far, including in Toms River.

"We had a major issue over the 4th of July (weekend), we love for people to celebrate but fireworks are getting out of control. We had over 1,000 calls over 4th of July weekend, the officers were running around crazy, fireworks were going off -- some of the private fireworks were actually better than the paid ones that were legal," Chief Little said.

The safety concern with fireworks has multiple layers aside from the obvious.

"People don't think about what it does to the community," Chief Little said. "There are fireworks that can land in people's gutters -- we just went through fall, people still have leaves in their gutters, leaves are all dried out -- they can catch on fire, people can lose their homes, they can lose their lives. We have veterans with PTSD, we have autistic children that can't handle loud noises, we have pets that can't handle loud noises -- and nobody thinks about that stuff and the dangers. It's nice to celebrate but it puts a lot of other people in danger and when I see that -- it's pretty selfish when people start doing things like that and not thinking about their neighbors and the rest of the community."

If you're having a gathering at home or heading to a family member or friends house for a New Year's Eve get-together, be sure to be kind and patient on the roads to other drivers and to other shoppers in supermarkets and liquor stores because everyone has somewhere they want to be.

Chief Little explains that this time of year can be stressful and depressing to many different people for a number of reasons including financial problems or something else entirely -- perhaps someone is just having a bad day which could make a trip for groceries confrontational.

"Tempers do flare and it's a lot easier to set someone off around this time of year because there's so any different variables and we just ask people to try to plan a little better, try to find those times when traffic might not be so bad, try to find times where your stores you frequent -- try to go during the hours where it's not as crowded and tensions aren't as high," Chief Little said.

If/when someone cuts you off on the road (not always intentional) or switches lanes and chooses not to use a directional signal, try to restrain yourself from reacting and just be patient, take a deep breath and relax before moving ahead.

"Somebody could be having a bad day and somebody unintentionally cuts somebody off or doesn't use the directional and the other driver flies off the handle, they end up jumping out of the car and assaulting each other or bringing out a weapon and it's just obviously not the way to go," Chief Little said.

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