OPD Stresses Caution During St. Patrick’s Day Celebrations

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Although Irish in its roots, St. Patrick’s Day is most widely celebrated in the United States. To help keep your community’s streets safe, the Ottumwa Police Department is partnering up with the Governor’s Traffic Safety Bureau to spread the message about the dangers of drunk driving. If your plans for the holiday include alcohol, make sure you plan for a sober driver. Help us spread the message that Buzzed Driving Is Drunk Driving.

St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in the United States extend as far back as the American colonial period. Today, it’s one of our nation’s most popular holidays, celebrated with festivals, parades, and parties. These celebrations frequently feature themed cocktails and green pints, and the amount of alcohol consumed is higher than average. People are more likely to make poor decisions as a result, including
driving while intoxicated.

Because St. Patrick’s Day falls on a Sunday, we anticipate alcohol consumption will increase throughout the weekend. We ask everyone to celebrate responsibly. Last March, there were 26 traffic fatalities on Iowa roads. Almost 40% of those occurred the week of St. Patrick’s Day (March 11-19, 2023).

GTSB also reminds drivers to watch for pedestrians. An increase in alcohol consumption and pedestrian traffic can be a dangerous combination. If you’re on foot, cross streets in well-lit areas and use the crosswalks.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 11,654 people were killed in drunk-driving crashes in 2020. On average, more than 10,000 people were killed each year from 2016 to 2020 — one person was killed in a drunk-driving crash every 45 minutes in 2020. This is why the Ottumwa Police Department is working with the GTSB to remind drivers that drunk driving is not only illegal, it is a matter of life and death. As you head out to the festivities, help us spread the word: Buzzed Driving Is Drunk Driving.

St. Patrick’s Day is one of the deadliest times on our nation’s roads. During the 2016-2020 St. Patrick’s Day holiday period (6 p.m. March 16 to 5:59 a.m. March 18), 287 lives were lost in drunk-driving crashes. In 2020 alone, 37 people were killed in drunk-driving crashes over the St. Patrick’s Day holiday period (6 p.m. March 16 to 5:59 a.m. March 18). Drivers should also keep an eye out for pedestrians who have had too much to drink. Walking while intoxicated can also be deadly; lack of attention to surroundings could put pedestrians at risk of getting hit by a vehicle.

Drunk drivers are a continuing problem on our nation’s roads, especially around days 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 you’re the designated driver, make sure you keep that promise of safety to yourself and your passengers. It can be a long night, but people are counting on you, not to mention the other drivers, passengers, and pedestrians on the streets. Take the role of designated driver seriously — people are relying on you.

Before ever heading out, it’s vital to plan ahead. Be honest with yourself: You know whether you’ll be drinking or not. Follow these ideas to ensure you and your fellow partygoers stay safe.

 Plan ahead: If you wait until you’ve been drinking to make a smart decision, you might not. Before you have one drink, designate a sober driver who won’t be drinking.
 You have options: designate a sober driver, call a taxi, or use a rideshare service. Getting home safely is always worth it. If it’s your turn to be the designated driver, take your job seriously and don’t drink.
 If you see a drunk driver on the road, contact the Ottumwa Police Department.
 Do you have a friend who is about to drink and drive? Take the keys away and let a sober driver get your friend home safely.

The Governor’s Traffic Safety Bureau works with city, county, state, and local organizations to develop and implement strategies to reduce deaths and injuries on Iowa’s roadways using federally funded grants.

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