Sr. Public Relations Specialist, MD
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You don’t have to be Irish to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and you don’t have to be a basketball player to celebrate the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. However, AAA urges those who take part in the revelry hoops and hops this weekend to have a plan before getting behind the wheel.
Basketball, booze and beer don’t mix when it comes to driving – in fact, they can be a deadly combination. With the UMBC Retrievers taking on the top-seeded Virginia Cavaliers in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament Friday night, followed by St. Patrick’s Day on Saturday, this could be an especially festive weekend in the region. In light of these events and the many planned celebrations, AAA Mid-Atlantic reminds drivers not to get behind the wheel if they have been drinking.
“Whether you join friends for 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, utilize a ride share such as with Lyft or Uber, or take public transportation to ensure you get home safely,” advises Ragina Cooper Averella, Manager of Public and Government Affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic.
Nationwide, alcohol-impaired driving crashes are on the rise. In 2016, 10,497 people died in alcohol-impaired-driving crashes in 2016, an increase of 2.3 percent over 2015, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
St. Patrick’s Day has become a deadly holiday for our nation’s roads due to the number of drunk-driving crashes and fatalities. From 2012 to 2016, the St. Patrick’s Day holiday period (6 p.m. March 16 to 5:59 a.m. March 18) saw the loss of 269 lives nationally due to drunk-driving crashes. In 2016, drunk driving killed more than 10,000 people in the U.S. (NHTSA).
The consequences of driving impaired are not worth the risks and completely preventable. Drunk driving can result in death, jail time, the loss of your driver’s license, and higher insurance rates, as well as dozens of other unanticipated expenses ranging from attorney fees, court costs, lost wages, and vehicle towing and repairs.
Maryland State Police, in conjunction with the Harford County Sheriff’s Office and other law enforcement agencies will have additional patrols throughout the weekend and will be conducting sobriety checkpoints to identify impaired drivers and promote public awareness of impaired driving dangers.
To prevent senseless tragedies from occurring, AAA Mid-Atlantic offers the following steps to have a safe and happy St. Patrick’s Day celebration, as well as enjoy NCAA Basketball Tournament action:
If you’re venturing out to a pub or attending a St. Patrick’s Day or NCAA basketball tournament party, plan ahead:
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 will drink, designate a sober, reliable driver to get you home safely or plan to call a taxi, ride share, sober friend or family member, or use public transportation.
If you plan on driving, commit to staying sober.
If you see a driver on the road that you suspect is impaired, pull over to a safe spot and call 911, giving police a description of the vehicle.
And remember, 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,” said Averella. “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.”
NHTSA’s SaferRide mobile app is an option available for Android devices on Google Play, and Apple devices on the iTunes store. The app helps people who have been drinking get a safe ride home; it helps users call a taxi or a friend and identifies their location so they can be picked up.
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AAA provides automotive, travel and insurance services to 58 million members nationwide and more than 937,000 members in Maryland. AAA advocates for the safety and mobility of its members and has been committed to outstanding road service for more than 100 years. The not-for-profit, fully tax-paying member organization works on behalf of motorists, who can now map a route, find local gas prices, discover discounts, book a hotel and track their roadside assistance service with the AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android. For more information, visit AAA.com.