ATLANTA, GA (WALB) - Information from the Governor's Office of Highway Safety-
St. Patrick's Day brings to mind shamrocks, leprechauns and good luck.
Because a major part of the holiday also involves drinking, the Governor's Office of Highway Safety is partnering with sober driving coalition TEAM Georgia to warn partygoers that their celebrating can include drinking or driving, but should never include both.
Georgia has a long-standing zero tolerance policy toward drunk driving. The legal blood alcohol limit in all 50 states is .08 and in Georgia, if you don't drive sober, you will get pulled over. Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows why law enforcement all over Georgia and the country will be stepping up enforcement on one of the biggest drinking holidays of the year.
Last year, there were an estimated 276 alcohol-related traffic fatalities in Georgia. Across the country, St. Patrick's Day specifically has proven to be a deadly holiday. According to NHTSA, 40 percent of all crash deaths during the 2013 holiday weekend involved drunk drivers. The late night hours between March 17 and March 18 were even worse with 50 percent of crashes involving alcohol.
GOHS is partnering with TEAM Georgia to remind Georgia partygoers that it's okay to drink, as long as they have a sober ride home. In this age of technology, there's even an app for that. Downloading GOHS' Drive Sober, Georgia app ahead of time will ensure anyone who imbibes at all on St. Patrick's Day has access to a list of sober ride services in their area.
"There is no excuse for not having a sober ride plan in place before you set out to celebrate on St. Patrick's Day," said GOHS Director Harris Blackwood. "The luck of the Irish won't save you if you choose to drive drunk in Georgia. Get a friend to be your designated driver, have our app downloaded and commit to use it or plan to take public transportation home."
Since 1985, TEAM Georgia has worked year-round to encourage safe and sober driving in order to reduce alcohol-related crashes, injuries and fatalities on Georgia's roadways and waterways. Major drinking occasions like St. Patrick's Day and New Year's Eve provide the coalition an opportunity to reinforce their message and highlight the dangers of impaired driving.
"Recent federal reports indicate that we are making progress in reducing the number of drivers with alcohol in their systems on the road today," said TEAM Georgia Chairman Ron Fennel. "We must, however, continue to warn the public that drinking and driving can have catastrophic results. Secure a sober, designated driver before your night begins so you and your party can arrive home safely."
From 2009 to 2013, nearly 75 percent of the drunk driving fatalities on St. Patrick's Day involved drivers who were twice the legal limit. In 2013 alone, 31 people were killed in alcohol-impaired crashes on March 17 nationwide.
There are several easy ways to avoid driving drunk on St. Patrick's Day:
Download the Drive Sober, Georgia app
Designate a sober driver before the partying begins
Leave your keys at home to make sure you have no choice but to call a friend or hire a taxi.
If you've committed to being a designated driver, brag about it ahead of time and during your celebrating.
Be sure to enjoy only non-alcoholic beverages.
If you can't afford a taxi, plan to take public transportation and make sure you know how late it's available in your area.
For more information about impaired driving awareness, visit www.gahighwaysafety.org.
TEAM Georgia can be reached by visiting www.teamgeorgia.net or by calling 770-490-1243.