WILKES-BARRE — AAA Mid-Atlantic warned Thursday the combination of college basketball, St. Patrick’s Day and the potential for — brace yourself — more snow showers today could make for an exceptionally dangerous day on the road.
For many, St. Patrick’s Day has become a day-long celebration with family and friends, often involving alcohol consumption. Unfortunately, this can also lead to a large number of impaired drivers.
Adding to the danger this year is the holiday falling on a Friday, not to mention potential slippery pavement and the ongoing NCAA tournament. Many folks go to bars and house parties to watch those games, only increasing the chances for more drunken drivers on the road.
“Whether you will be gathering with friends at a house party or on a pub crawl, if alcohol is part of the festivities, make sure you designate a sober driver, call a taxi, ride-share such as with Lyft or Uber, or take public transportation to ensure you get home safely,” advises Jana L. Tidwell, manager of Public and Government Affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic.
According to travel agency:
• Nationwide, alcohol-impaired driving crashes are on the rise, from 9,943 in 2014, to 10,265 in 2015 — an increase of 3.2 percent, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
• PennDOT reports that in 2015, there were 345 alcohol-related deaths as a result of crashes in the state.
• During the St. Patrick’s Day holiday period — March 16 to early March 18 — from 2011 to 2015, 252 people were killed nationwide due to DUI crashes, based on statistics from NHTSA.
• During post-party hours, between midnight and 6 a.m., nearly a third of crash fatalities involved drunken drivers.
To prevent senseless tragedies, AAA Mid-Atlantic offers these tips for a safe celebration:
• Before heading out the door to a house party or favorite pub, decide whether you’ll drink or you’ll drive — you can’t do both.
• If you plan on driving, commit to staying sober.
• If you see a driver on the road who you suspect is impaired, pull over to a safe spot and call 911, giving police a description of the vehicle.
• If you see people who are about to drive while impaired, take their keys and help them make other arrangements to get to where they are going safely.
• If you’re hosting a party where alcohol is being served, be a responsible host.
• Have food and non-alcoholic beverages available. Remember that it takes 40 minutes or longer for alcohol from a drink to be absorbed.
• Take note of who’s coming, who drinks, and who drives. Make sure all of your guests designate their sober drivers in advance, or help arrange ride-sharing with other sober drivers.
• Stop serving alcohol at least an hour before your guests start to leave for home.
• Keep the numbers for local cab companies handy, and take the keys away from anyone who is thinking of driving while impaired.
“Drivers are also advised to keep an eye out for pedestrians who have had too much to drink and may jaywalk and not obey traffic signals,” Tidwell said. “Walking while intoxicated can also be deadly, as lack of attention and coordination puts drunk pedestrians at risk of getting hit by a vehicle. Pub crawlers are urged to keep an eye out for cars, cross at intersections, and obey walk signals.”
Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.