The winter holiday season, with all its wonderful sights, sounds, and surroundings is upon us. As you and your family prepare to enjoy cherished moments and traditions, I ask each of you to keep Safety in all of your plans.

During the month of December and the winter months, we are busy with holiday events, to include traveling to visit family and friends, and attending holiday gatherings. Each of these activities shares a common risk--they all involve travel and the potential for accidents. Although we routinely accept risks as a part of everyday life, the risks of accidents can become more prevalent when distracted by holiday activities. Roadways are usually more congested, so expect delays and plan your trips accordingly. This will reduce unnecessary stress. Prepare an emergency kit to help you in the event of inclement weather. Start your trip well-rested, and take periodic breaks if you will be traveling long distances. Drive sensibly, yet defensively, and always use your seat belts and insist that your passengers use them also.

Drinking and driving can be a very serious problem during the holidays with even more serious consequences. If your holiday activities include indulging in alcoholic beverages, please take care to designate a safe driver or arrange an alternate safe means of transportation PRIOR to celebrating.

Practice safety as you decorate your home for the holidays. Fires caused by strings of lights, frayed cords, and candles can be prevented. Follow the manufacturer's instructions on the use of holiday lights, check for and only use approved lights and extension cords. Ensure trees and other greenery have plenty of water to preclude premature dehydration. Don't leave burning candles unattended -- ever -- and be attentive to wood-burning fireplaces and stoves.

Remember that food illnesses can occur if not handled properly. As you attend and participate in holiday parties and celebrations, ensure leftover food is promptly refrigerated and/or discarded if not consumed. Also be watchful for snow covered or icy walking surfaces, to include "black ice" on highways and bridges.

Most important, please enjoy this holiday season and special time of the year. My family joins me in wishing you and your family a Safe and enjoyable winter holiday season, and all the very best in the coming New Year!