NASHVILLE - The Tennessee Highway Patrol urges motorists to designate a sober driver and don’t depend on dump luck this St. Patrick’s Day. Tennessee Highway Patrol Troopers will conduct more than 50 sobriety and driver license checkpoints across the state in an effort to find and remove impaired drivers from Tennessee roadways. The official 2010 St. Patrick’s Day holiday begins at 6:00 p.m., March 16, 2010, and runs through 6:59 a.m. on Friday, March 19, 2010.
For many Americans, St. Patrick’s Day has become a popular night out to celebrate with friends and family. Unfortunately, due to the large number of drunk drivers, the night out has also become very dangerous. In Tennessee, three people were killed in three fatal crashes during the 2009 St. Patrick’s Holiday, and two of those crashes involved alcohol.
“Whether you are meeting a few friends at the local establishment or restaurant after work or attending the neighborhood ethnic celebration, if you plan on using alcohol, never drive impaired,” said Department of Safety Commissioner Dave Mitchell. “And never let your friends drive if you think they are impaired.” “Friends Don’t Let Friends Drive Drunk.”
On St. Patrick’s Day 2008, nationwide, 37 percent of drivers and motorcyclists involved in fatal crashes had a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 or above, according to statistics by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Department of Safety statistics from 2003 to 2009 show that March 18 ranks fourth in average daily alcohol involved crashes. During this period, approximately 33 percent of crashes that occurred between midnight and 6 a.m. on March 18 involved alcohol, 11 percentage points higher than a typical early morning.
“Driving impaired is simply not worth the risk,” said THP Colonel Mike Walker. “Not only do you risk killing yourself or someone else, but the trauma and financial costs of a crash or an arrest for driving while impaired can be really significant. Don’t depend on dumb luck this St. Patrick’s Day. Designate your sober driver before the party begins.”
A driver convicted of DUI can face up to 48 hours in jail and the loss of driving privileges for up to a year for a first offense. The associated costs of driving impaired also included attorney fees, court costs, reinstatement fees and higher insurance premiums. There is also the risk of paying the worst cost of all—your life or the life of someone else. In 2009, preliminary statistics indicate that 976 people died on Tennessee roadways, a decline of 6 percent, compared to 1,043 fatalities in 2008. In 2008, 327 people, 32 percent, died in highway crashes in Tennessee involving a driver or motorcycle rider with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or higher. For more information, visit www.StopImpairedDriving.org. A list of safe driving tips and scheduled checkpoints for the St. Patrick’s Holiday are included in this release. Statistical data for St. Patrick’s Day 2000-2009 are attached.
SAFE ST. PATRICK’S DAY DRIVING TIPS
• Plan Ahead. If you’ll be drinking, arrange a safe way home before the festivities begin.
• Before drinking, designate a sober driver and give that person your keys.
• If you’re impaired, call a taxi, use public transportation, or call a sober friend or family member to get you home safely.
• Use the local Sober Ride program.
• If you see a drunk driver on the road, promptly contact your local law enforcement agency (Dial *THP)
• Remember, Friends Don’t Let Friends Drive Drunk. If you or someone who is about to drive or ride with someone who is impaired, take their keys and help them make other arrangements to get to where they are going safely.
• Drunk driving violators often face jail time, the loss of their driver license, higher insurance rates, and dozens of other unanticipated expenses, ranging from attorney fees, court costs, car towing and repairs and lost wages due to time off from work.
• And remember, the tragedies and costs of driving drunk are serious and real. Not only do you risk killing yourself or someone else, but the trauma and financial costs of a crash or an arrest for drunk driving are significant.
• Of Tennessee’s 1,043 fatalities in 2008, 327 (32 percent) occurred in crashes involving one or more drivers with an illegal BAC (0.08+).
The Tennessee Department of Safety’s mission is (www.TN.Gov/safety) to ensure the safety and general welfare of the public. The department encompasses the Tennessee Highway Patrol, Office of Homeland Security and Driver License Services. General areas of responsibility include law enforcement, safety education, motorist services and terrorism prevention.