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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I just finished reading "Still Shaking's" letter to you about drunk driving. I am a 20-year-old college student. I hope you will print my letter as well, because teens and young adults can't hear this enough: DON'T DRINK AND DRIVE. YOU ARE NOT INVINCIBLE.

Although I'm ashamed to admit it, I have been a passenger in a car with a drunk driver. Never again. Sometimes it takes hearing a horror story to make an impression on young people, so here goes:

My best childhood friend drove home drunk from a party last Saturday night. She had a 17-year-old passenger with her. My friend crashed into two utility poles three blocks from her house. Her passenger was killed. At 20 years of age, my bright and funny friend is facing charges of manslaughter drunk driving. Worse, she must face the grief she has inflicted on the girl's family and live with the guilt of killing her friend long past any prison time she may serve.

Please, to my peers: As that lucky girl, "Still Shaking," begged you before, don't drive drunk, AND DON'T GET INTO A CAR WITH A DRUNK DRIVER. "Only one time" can kill you. "It's just down the street" can kill you. Or worse, it may kill a friend. -- SHOCKED AND SOBERED, AUSTIN, TEXAS

DEAR SHOCKED AND SOBERED: Your letter is timely because today is a holiday when even those who rarely drink are sometimes tempted or coerced into "having a little nip" -- and maybe two or three -- to welcome the new year and toast the passing of the last one. It's also an occasion when people who are not used to drinking tend to binge. The result is intoxicated drivers on the road -- a menace to themselves and everyone around them. I hope that this year, party-goers of every age will pay attention to your important warning. Drunk driving is not limited only to younger people.

DEAR ABBY: The story in your column about people having themselves paged in a hotel lobby for recognition reminded me of the time I was a patient in our local hospital. I happened to be chairman of the board of trustees of the hospital as well.

My room was in a normally quiet wing of the post-surgical floor when I became aware of the pages being broadcast over the hospital intercom system. One doctor in particular seemed to be in great demand. When I did a little investigating, I learned that he had himself paged on an ongoing basis -- sometimes even when he wasn't in the hospital -- as "free advertising." (He thought that if people heard his name being broadcast often, they would think he must be a great doctor.)

Needless to say, the audio paging was soon stopped. Now doctors are paged only on their personal systems. -- A READER IN PALM BEACH, FLA.

DEAR READER: I'll bet the patients are grateful for the peace and quiet. When someone is ill and trying to recover, incessant pages such as you have described are about as welcome as telemarketing calls while you're taking your Saturday night bath.

CONFIDENTIAL TO MY READERS: Farewell to 2001 -- what a year this has been! Let's all say a prayer for world peace, for the health and safety of President Bush and Vice President Cheney, and for our members of the military who are far from their loved ones today. It takes only a minute to send greetings to our troops around the globe. Simply e-mail them at www.OperationDearAbby.net and wish them Happy New Year. And to all of you, a happy, healthy and prosperous 2002.

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