St. Patrick’s Day is often looked at as the unofficial start of spring and a time to celebrate with friends at pubs, parties and festivals.
Unfortunately, these celebrations have resulted in St. Patrick’s Day 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, during the 2020 St. Patrick’s Day weekend alone (6 p.m. March 16 to 5:59 a.m. March 18), more than a third of traffic crash fatalities involved a drunk driver.
In fact, from 2016 to 2020, a total of 287 lives were lost in impaired-driving crashes during the St. Patrick’s Day period nationwide.
“Spring has, hopefully, finally sprung and Virginians are excited to shed the extra layers and celebrate warmer temperatures,” said Col. Gary T. Settle, Virginia State Police superintendent. “Don’t let your first celebration of the season be your last. St. Patrick’s Day can be a fun time to have a pint with a pal, but remember getting behind the wheel when intoxicated is no way to celebrate. Driving drunk is a choice - a choice with deadly consequences for you, your passengers and every other motorist sharing the road with you.”
State police officials suggest a plan before heading to a party:
• 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 cellphone 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 Virginia State Police 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 started at 12:01 a.m., March 12 and concludes at midnight Sunday.
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 drive drug and alcohol free.