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The New York State Thruway Authority will carry into the new millennium its 40-year-old New Year's Eve tradition of offering free coffee and tea to motorists.

The beverages are offered to help keep motorists warm and awake during their late-night and early-morning traveling. Tea and coffee will be provided from 11 p.m. Friday to 7 a.m. Saturday at all 127 Thruway Authority travel plazas throughout the state.

"The free coffee and tea is our way of thanking our customers and reminding them to drive responsibly," said John Platt, executive director of the Thruway Authority. "Driving fatigued can be very dangerous. Taking frequent breaks helps keep drivers alert and our highways safe."

The Thruway Authority advises motorists to take turns driving or take a break at the travel plazas in order to avoid falling asleep at the wheel. Motorists should use highway shoulders only in extreme emergencies, they warn. Even if an emergency occurs, motorists should pull their vehicles well off the driving lanes, as far to the right as possible, the Thruway Authority advises.

"Before trips, motorists should make sure they are well-rested," added Platt. "Drivers should not risk harming themselves or others; be alert, remember to buckle up, and never drink and drive."

The Thruway Authority will be assisted in its New Year's Eve tradition by McDonald's and Host Marriott Corp., which operate the Thruway travel plazas. Fuel and food service will be available at each plaza.

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