The following was written by Bobbi Brooks, Texas A&M Agrilife Extension Watch UR BAC program manager:
St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in America date back to the country’s founding. With large parties discouraged this year due to COVID-19, 2021 celebrations may look a little different across the country. However, one aspect of St. Patrick’s Day celebrations will remain: alcohol consumption—which is why it is important to remember: Buzzed Driving is Drunk Driving.
It is imperative to plan ahead for a sober designated driver if consuming alcoholic beverages. To help keep local communities safe, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service is teaming up with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to spread the message about the dangers of drunk driving. Even one drink can be one too many.
We understand people are looking for a reason to celebrate, and we want our community members to enjoy the St. Patrick’s Day, but we also want to impress upon everyone the importance of safe driving. If you’ve been drinking, make the right choice to find a sober driver to get you, and your friends, home safely. Before you put your keys in the ignition, remind yourself: Buzzed Driving is Drunk Driving. According to NHTSA, 10,142 people were killed in drunk-driving crashes in 2019. On average, more than 10,000 people were killed each year from 2015 to 2019—one person was killed in a drunk-driving crash every 52 minutes in 2019. This is why AgriLife Extension is working with NHTSA to remind drivers that drunk driving is not only illegal, but also a matter of life and death.
During the 2019 St. Patrick’s Day weekend alone (6 p.m., March 16, to 5:59 a.m., March 18), more than 3 out of 5 (63 percent) crash 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. Drivers should also keep an eye out for pedestrians who have had too much to drink.
Drunk drivers are a continuing problem on our nation’s roads, especially around holidays like St. Patrick’s Day. People need to know that they can go out for a night of fun and return home safely by ensuring they have a sober driver take them home. Don’t be the reason someone—including yourself—doesn’t get home. Don’t let St. Patrick’s Day become an anniversary of a tragic night.
If functioning as the designated driver, make sure to keep that promise of safety to oneself and all passengers. It can be a long night, but people are counting on the designated driver, not to mention the other drivers, passengers, and pedestrians on the roadways.
Party with a Plan
Before ever heading out, it is vital to plan ahead. Be honest about drinking: Know whether alcohol will be consumed or not. Follow these ideas to ensure that all partygoers stay safe:
Remember: It is never OK to drink and drive. Even after only one alcoholic beverage, designate a sober driver or plan to use public transportation or a ride service to get home safely.
If available, use the community’s sober ride program.
If a suspected drunk driver is spotted on the road, contact local law enforcement.
Have a friend who has been drinking and is about to drive? Take their keys away and make arrangements to get them home safely.