For many of us, St. Patrick’s Day means three different things—parades, wearing green, and drinking alcohol.
Despite its religious roots, St. Paddy’s Day has become nearly synonymous with drinking. Many contend that there’s nothing wrong with letting loose every once in a while, but no one can say that irresponsible drinking doesn’t cause horrific tragedies.
We don’t mean to be a buzzkill, but the statistics definitively concur. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, approximately 88,000 people die from alcohol-related causes each year, making it the third leading preventable cause of death in the United States, trailing only tobacco use and poor diet and minimal exercise. In 2016, 10,497 deaths involved drunk drivers, accounting for roughly 28% of all traffic deaths.
As you probably expect, drunk driving is especially prevalent on St. Paddy’s Day. In 2015, alcohol impairment was linked to 39% of traffic deaths on March 17th, a percentage that dramatically increased to 69% between midnight and 6 a.m. the following day
There’s also strong financial and legal incentives to stay sober behind the wheel. The average total cost of a first DUI is around $10,000, and law-breakers are guaranteed to spend at least a few hours in jail. In case the threat of killing or injuring themselves and others isn’t enough to deter would-be-drunk-drivers, the certainty of an increased police presence on the roads St. Patrick’s Day should give them further pause. Drivers can count on there being DUI checkpoints behind every corner, ensuring there’ll be little chance to escape the consequences of driving drunk.
Perhaps the only comforting thing about drunk driving is that it’s easily preventable. In fact, drunk-driving fatalities have plummeted by a third in the last 3 decades.
Let’s take a look at the ways you can partake responsibly in the St. Paddy’s Day festivities.
Plan Before You Go Out
If you’ve ever heard someone describe the details of a night you don’t remember, you know how embarrassing it can be. That’s because alcohol inhibits your decision-making abilities, or in other words, it makes you more likely to do stupid things. Therefore, it’s important you plan your night in advance. Your evening can take many different shapes—just as long as you don’t end up driving while intoxicated.
Unfortunately, fully-autonomous cars are still a way’s off, so we’ve still got a while before you can legally and safely take your favorite cocktail on the road. This means you, or another homo sapien, will need to stay sober to fulfill piloting duties if you want to leave the house. The good news is that in this modern world, you’ve got plenty of viable options.
Safe Driving Option 1: Cab, Uber, or Lyft
For one, you can call a cab, or use a smartphone app like Uber or Lyft to get someone to chauffeur you from point A to point B (and wherever else you decide). Sure, you’ll spend money, but it’s lot cheaper than a getting DUI, or worse. Keep an eye out for St. Patrick’s Day ridesharing promotions to save money, but keep in mind these are often first come first serve, and have been known to fail in the past.
Safe Driving Option 2: NHTSA’s App
If you’re the type to forget where you are, let alone how to use an app after several pints of Guinness—try SaferRide, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) app designed for simplicity. There are three buttons: one lists the taxi services nearby, one calls a pre-programed contact number, and one gives you your current location. No inputting your payment info or choosing from pricing tiers—just tells you where you are and who to call.
Safe Driving Option 3: A Designated Driver
If you’ve got a teetotaler for a friend that also has a high tolerance for impromptu car karaoke, consider enlisting them as your designated driver for the night. Added bonus: they can keep you from making bad decisions that don’t involve grabbing your car keys.
Safe Driving Option 4: Don’t Drive at All
Still, these responsible options won’t protect you from any other crazies that might be on the road. If that’s your concern, consider staying in. Invite your friends over and let them crash there for the night. Get plenty of party supplies so there’s no temptation for anyone to end up behind the wheel. Just make sure your guests chip in on Irish food and other St. Patrick’s Day party supplies, and that your friends don’t mysteriously disappear when it’s time to clean up.
Safe Driving Option 5: Stay Where the Party is
If you live close to a major city, you may be able to have the best of both worlds. By getting a hotel smack-dab in the center of the action, you’ll be able to commemorate the death of St. Patrick at all the hottest bars, travel on foot or by pedicab, and nurse your hangover the next day over some continental breakfast or leftover Irish food. Start looking for a hotel early and scour the internet for coupons and promotions to make sure you get the best deal.
Just Be Smart
Even if all your best-laid plans go to waste, there’s still no for driving while intoxicated. Call a sober friend or family member if you find yourself stranded somewhere. They may be a little annoyed with you, but they’ll be devastated if you wind up dead or in jail.