With St. Paddy's Day right around the corner, a lot of Wyomingites don't realize how dangerous of a holiday it can be. In the last few years, there have been more arrests and accidents on March 17th then on New Years! Let's make this year's festivities more of a joyous occasion.

As one of the country’s most popular holidays, St. Patrick’s Day has long celebrated the roots of Americans with Irish ancestry, and many more who just want to partake in the festivities. But, in 2014 there were 18 people killed in drunk driving crashes on St. Paddy’s Day. This year, if you’ll be drinking alcohol, remember: Buzzed driving is drunk driving.

Tragically, March 17 has become one of the nation’s deadliest holidays. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, during the 2014 St. Patrick’s Day holiday period, more than a quarter (28 percent) of all motor vehicle crash fatalities involved drunk drivers. In 2015, Natrona County had three DUIs during the St. Patrick’s Day holiday.

“We want to encourage everyone to make a plan before heading out to the festivities. Understand the danger of drinking and driving. Buzzed or drunk, you should not drive. Designate a sober driver before you and your friends go out to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day,” said Detective John Hatcher with the Casper Police Department. “Do not wait until you’ve already been drinking to find a sober driver. Even one drink is dangerous if you are behind the wheel of a car.”

Let’s make 2016 safer. Use this party-planning checklist to stay safe this St. Patrick’s Day.

  • PARTY PREPARATION: Designate a sober, reliable driver to get you home safely. Find the name of a taxi company (or two), and keep their numbers in your phone, or download the Drive Sober Wyoming app, available for Androidand Apple. You can also use our community’s sober ride program, Safe Ride. Ask your bartender and server for details.
  • ON ST. PATRICK’S DAY: Before you take your first sip of green beer, leave your keys at home or give them to a friend. Ensure your designated driver has committed to a sober evening. If you’re the designated driver, do not drink. Your friends are relying on you, as are the people with whom you share the road. Enjoy non-alcoholic beverages and tweet your VIP (very important partygoer) status online using the hashtag #designateddriver.
  • EVERY DAY: First, commit to driving sober today, St. Patrick’s Day and every day. Second, always keep the number of a taxi company in your phone or in your wallet so you have a backup plan if you find yourself in need of a sober driver. Last, be sure to download the Drive Sober Wyoming app. Using your location, the app can find a taxi nearby, as well as help you contact a friend from your selected list of contacts.

Fact: In 2014, on average, one person was killed every 53 minutes in a drunk-driving crash in the United States. That totaled 9,967 drunk-driving fatalities that year. Too many people are not getting the message. Drunk driving is deadly and illegal. In fact, even if you have a BAC under .08, you could still be arrested and convicted of drunk driving.

To drink and drive is a crime. You put yourself at risk, as well as others. The consequences are often fatal. If you see a drunk driver on the road, contact local police when it is safe to do so. You could save a life.

For more information, visit www.trafficsafetymarketing.gov.