SALEM, Ore. - St. Patrick's Day is Monday, and Oregon State Police, local law enforcement agencies, ODOT and traffic safety partners are reminding drivers not to get behind the wheel if they've been drinking.
For many people, St. Patrick's Day has become synonymous with drinking. Unfortunately, that means that drunk drivers have made the celebratory day very dangerous.
St. Patrick's Day is celebrated in many communities, large and small. Whether in the Portland metropolitan area, The Dalles, or at the 32nd Annual "A Wee Bit O'Ireland" weekend celebration in Heppner, the OSP, Oregon State Sheriffs' Association (OSSA), and Oregon Association Chiefs of Police (OACP) urge everyone to remember that 'Buzzed Driving is Drunk Driving', so pledge and plan now to drive sober.
"If you celebrate St. Patrick's Day, or on any other day, just be smart about it. If you know you are going to drink alcohol - whether with friends at a pub or attending a local event or party - designate your sober driver ahead of time, use alternative transportation, or call a taxi to make sure you get home," said OSP Major Travis Hampton.
According to ODOT's Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), over the years 2007 - 2013 there have been four traffic fatalities on St. Patrick's Day (1 - 2007, 3 - 2012) of which two deaths were in alcohol-involved crashes. No deaths were recorded 2008 - 2011 and in 2013.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports more than 269 people were killed by drunk drivers on St. Patrick's Day over the years 2007 - 2011. There were 45 people killed in 2011 alone.
On average, every 53 minutes a person is killed in a drunk-driving crash in the United States. Most of these crashes involved drunk drivers who had blood alcohol concentrations of .15 or higher, almost twice the legal limit of .08.
Last year, St. Patrick's Day was on Sunday and OSP troopers reported 15 DUII arrests statewide, nine of which occurred in the Portland area. There were no reported traffic fatalities in Oregon.
Oregon State Police, Oregon State Sheriffs' Association, Oregon Association of Chiefs of Police, ODOT and the Oregon Health Authority's Addictions and Mental Health Division recommend the following precautions to help everyone enjoy a safe St. Patrick's Day:
*Plan a safe way home before the festivities begin and designate a sober driver.
*If you decide to drink once you're out, use a taxi, call a sober friend or family member, or use public transportation.
*If you see a drunk driver on the road, contact your local law enforcement by calling 9-1-1 or 1-800-24-DRUNK. You could save a life.
*If you are hosting a party, serve plenty of food and non-alcoholic beverages.
*And remember, if you know someone who is about to drive or ride while impaired, take their keys and help make other arrangements to get them to where they are going safely.
Additional information is available at www.StopImpairedDriving.org.