Two of Five Crash Deaths in U.S. Blamed on St. Patrick’s Day

white skull with clover

Don’t push your luck this St. Patrick’s Day. While the holiday may be a time to celebrate with family and friends, your plans should also include transportation to and from your destination if you plan to drink.

Law enforcement officials from around the nation will be setting up sobriety checkpoints this evening focusing on both drug and alcohol-impaired drivers. Use this calculator to estimate just how little alcohol it takes to put you on the wrong side of the law. However, know that even small amounts of alcohol can affect your ability to drive, so the only safe advice is to avoid any alcohol if you are driving.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administrationreports that two of five people killed nationwide in crashes involved a drunk driver during St. Patrick’s Day between 2006 and 2010. NHTSA analyses show alcohol-impaired crashes claimed a life every 53 minutes in 2011.

So whether your plans include attending a local parade or festival, hosting a party or gathering with friends at the local bar or pub, NHTSA urges everyone to designate a sober driver before alcohol is consumed. The agency also offers the following safety tips:

  • Designate your sober driver or have an alternate transportation plan before the party begins.
  • If you don’t have a designated driver, ask a sober friend for a ride home; call a cab, friend, or family member to come and get you; or just stay where you are and don’t drive until you are sober.
  • Use your community’s sober ride program.
  • Never let a friend drive drunk. Arrange a safe way for them to get home.
  • Don’t ride in a vehicle with a driver who is intoxicated.
  • Always buckle up. It’s still your best defense against drunk drivers.

If you are hosting a party:

  • Make sure all of your guests designate their sober drivers in advance, or help arrange alternate transportation.
  • Serve plenty of food and non-alcoholic beverages at the party.
  • Stop serving alcohol a few hours before the end of the party and begin serving coffee and dessert.
  • Keep the phone number of local cab companies on hand, and take the keys away from anyone who is thinking of driving drunk and get them a cab ride home.
  • Remember, you can be held liable and prosecuted if someone you served ends up in a drunk-driving crash.
  • If an underage person drinks and drives, parents may be held liable for any damage, injury or death caused by the underage driver.
  • Likewise, parents or other adults who provide alcohol to, or host a party where alcohol is available to, those under age 21 could face jail time.

Being convicted of driving under the influence is expensive. According to AAA, first-time offenders can expect to pay more than $12,000 in fines, fees and other expenses.

Estimated costs for first misdemeanor DUI conviction:

  • Fine (minimum): $390 or more
  • Penalties (typical): $780
  • Vehicle tow/storage: $187
  • 15-week alcohol education classes: $500
  • Victim restitution fund: $100
  • DMV licensing re-issue fee: $125
  • Booking, fingerprinting, and photo fee: $156
  • Auto insurance rate increase: $7,424 over a 10-year period
  • Attorney fees: $2,500

  = $12,162

AAA is offering Tipsy Tow service tonight to keep drunk drivers off the road. Tipsy Tow is available to everyone, not just AAA members. Call 1-800-AAA HELP (800-222-4357) from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.; state that a tipsy tow is needed; provide the driver’s name, home address, phone number and vehicle/driver location. A ride is provided for the driver, one passenger and their vehicle at no charge for up to 10 miles.  Services will not be provided to a destination other than the driver’s home. A tow will be allowed to a hotel, if the driver is a guest or plans to become one.



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