As one of the country’s most popular holidays, St. Patrick’s Day has long celebrated the roots of 34.2 million Americans with Irish ancestry, and many more who just want to partake in the festivities. But, did you know that in 2014 there were 18 people killed in drunk-driving crashes on St. Paddy’s Day? This year, if you’ll be drinking alcohol, remember: Buzzed Driving is Drunk Driving.
Tragically, March 17 has become one of the nation’s deadliest holidays. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, during the 2014 St. Patrick’s Day holiday period (6 p.m. March 16 to 5:59 a.m. March 18), more than a quarter (28%) of all motor vehicle crash fatalities involved drunk drivers. The early hours of March 18 didn’t fare much better: between midnight and 5:59 a.m., nearly half of all crash fatalities involved drunk drivers. In fact, from 2010 to 2014, almost three-fourths of the drunk-driving fatalities during this holiday period involved drivers who had BACs well above the .08 limit, with 266 drunk-driving fatalities total. And keep an eye out for pedestrians who have had too much to drink: Walking while intoxicated can also be deadly, as lack of attention could put you at risk of getting hit by a vehicle. So whether you’ve indulged a little or a lot, NHTSA wants to remind everyone that Buzzed Driving Is Drunk Driving.
A little good news? That number of fatalities over the holiday period has decreased from 2013. On St. Patrick’s Day in 2013, 32 lives were lost to drunk driving. Almost a quarter of all traffic fatalities were drunk-driving related in 2014, which was a decrease from 2013 when more than a third of all crash fatalities involved drunk driving.
“We are greatly encouraged by the downward trend in fatalities,” said Erica Stanzione, Director of Communications and Partnerships at the Alliance for Safe Kids. “However, we still want to encourage everyone to make a plan before heading out to the festivities. Understand the danger of drinking and driving. Buzzed or drunk, you should not drive. Designate a sober driver before you and your friends go out to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. Do not wait until you’ve already been drinking to find a sober driver. Remember: Buzzed Driving is Drunk Driving. Even one drink is dangerous if you are behind the wheel of a car.”
Let’s make 2016 safer. Use this party-planning checklist to stay safe this St. Patrick’s Day.
§ PARTY PREPARATION: Designate a sober, reliable driver to get you home safely. Find the name of a taxi company (or two), and keep their numbers in your phone, or download the NHTSA SaferRide app, available for Android https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.nhtsa.SaferRide&hl=en and Apple https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/saferride/id950774008?mt=8.
§ ON ST. PATRICK’S DAY: Before you take your first sip of green beer, leave your keys at home or give them to a friend. Ensure your designated driver has committed to a sober evening. If you’re the designated driver, do not drink. Your friends are relying on you, as are the people with whom you share the road. Enjoy non-alcoholic beverages and tweet your VIP (very important partygoer) status online using the hashtag #designateddriver.
§ EVERY DAY: First, commit to driving sober today, St. Patrick’s Day, and every day. Second, always keep the number of a taxi company in your phone or in your wallet so you have a backup plan if you find yourself in need of a sober driver. Last, be sure to download NHTSA’s SaferRide app. Using your location, the app can find a taxi nearby, as well as help you contact a friend from your selected list of contacts. If you’re impaired, don’t let pride get in the way of calling a sober friend or family member to get you home safely. Help spread the word about the dangers of drunk driving, and the resources available to keep the streets safe.
Fact: In 2014, on average, 1 person was killed every 53 minutes in a drunk-driving crash in the United States. That totaled 9,967 drunk-driving fatalities that year. Too many people are not getting the message. Drunk driving is deadly and illegal. In fact, even if you have a BAC under .08, you could still be arrested and convicted of drunk driving.
To drink and drive is a crime —you put yourself at risk, as well as others. The consequences are often fatal. If you see a drunk driver on the road, contact local police when it is safe to do so. You could save a life.
For more information, visit www.trafficsafetymarketing.gov.