Newport Beach Police Department
As one of the country’s most popular holidays, St. Patrick’s Day is an occasion for 34.2 million Americans to celebrate their Irish ancestry, and for many more to join in the festivities. Tragically, March 17 has also become one of the nation’s deadliest holidays. In fact, the combined data from 2010 to 2014 shows that 266 people died as a result of drunk-driving traffic collisions during the St. Patrick’s Day holiday, with almost three-quarters of those collisions involving drivers who were well above the .08% blood alcohol content level.
To help lower deaths and injuries, the Newport Beach Police Department will be deploying extra officers on overtime to target problem areas (places with high numbers of DUI collisions and DUI arrests). The DUI patrols will join our regular officer deployment in looking for the tell-tale signs of impaired driving. One aspect that is often overlooked it that of pedestrians who have had too much to drink. The NBPD would like to remind the public that walking while intoxicated can be deadly, as lack of attention can put a pedestrian at risk of getting hit by a vehicle.
The unfortunate truth is this: while many people are making plans for St. Patrick’s Day, they aren’t all planning out a way to get home safely. You have many options: designate a sober, reliable driver; find a taxi company (or two) and keep their numbers in your phone; or download the California Office of Traffic Safety DDVIP (Designated Driver VIP) mobile app to get connected with free designated-driver incentives at local establishments or to order a sober ride from Uber, Lyft, or Curb. Whatever your choice may be, have a plan in advance. Some revelers think that they can play it by ear, and wait until after they drink to decide whether or not they’re “okay to drive”. By then, it’s too late.
If you don’t designate a sober driver ahead of time, or have a solid plan for how you will get home safely, you are setting yourself up for disaster. Buzzed Driving is Drunk Driving, and when you drive drunk, you run the risk of killing yourself or someone else. Even if you don’t harm anyone, the average DUI costs about $10,000… which far exceeds the cost of a taxi.
Recent statistics also show that 30 percent of drivers in fatal crashes had one or more drugs in their systems. A study of active drivers revealed that more people tested positive for drugs that may impair driving (14 percent) than for alcohol (7.3 percent). Of the drugs, marijuana was most prevalent, and showed slightly higher use than alcohol (7.4 percent). Mixing medication or drugs – legal or illegal – is a dangerous cocktail. To address this issue, specially-trained drug recognition experts will be checking for drug impairment whenever suspected.
A final statistic to remember: drunk-driving deaths are 100 percent preventable.
Funding for this deployment is provided by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The next special DUI campaign is set for Cinco de Mayo.