Drive safe and sober this St. Patrick’s Day

Published 4:49 pm Thursday, March 18, 2021

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A popular holiday and unofficial start of spring, St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in America date back to this country’s founding and celebrate the roots of millions with Irish ancestry. Unfortunately, these celebrations have resulted in St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, becoming one of the year’s most dangerous times to be on the road.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), during the 2019 St. Patrick’s Day weekend alone (6 p.m. March 16 to 5:59 a.m. March 18), more than three out of five (63%) traffic crash-related fatalities involved a drunk driver. In fact, from 2015 to 2019, a total of 280 lives were lost in drunk-driving crashes during the St. Patrick’s Day period nationwide.

“As COVID-19 cases start to drop and more people get vaccinated, Virginians are venturing towards a more normal life and are eager to find a reason to celebrate,” Colonel Gary T. Settle, Virginia State Police (VSP) superintendent, said. “Don’t let your first celebration be your last. And, just like practicing COVID-19 safety is about the entire community, so is not drinking and driving. Getting behind the wheel when intoxicated is a choice – a choice with deadly consequences for you, your passengers and every other motorist sharing the road with you.”

Safety isn’t about luck. If you’re going to party, party with a plan:

  • Ensure you have a designated sober driver, a plan to use public transportation or a ride share service before any drinking begins.
  • Buzzed driving is drunk driving. Be honest with yourself and know that even if you only plan on having one drink, you should plan on having a designated driver.
  • If you see a drunk driver on the road, pull over safely and dial #77 on a cell phone or call 911.
  • If you know someone who has been drinking and is about to drive, take the keys and make arrangements to get them home safely.

To further prevent traffic deaths and injuries during St. Patrick’s Day, as well as during the traditional spring break season, the VSP will be participating in Operation C.A.R.E., the Crash Awareness and Reduction Effort. The state-sponsored, national program, incorporates a nine-day statistical counting period that begins at 12:01 a.m., March 13, and concludes at midnight March 21.

All Virginians are reminded to keep safety first anytime you are behind the wheel. Always buckle up, avoid distractions, put your phone down, share the road and don’t drink and drive.