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A dangerous mix: Drinking and driving and St. Patrick's Day

stpatricksday031610_optFatal accidents are on a much lower track than last year, an encouraging sign as New Jersey approaches St. Patrick's Day. So far this year, 76 people have died on state roadways compared with 120 people during the same time period last year. That's a decrease of 36.7 percent. In order to keep that positive momentum going, law enforcement across New Jersey will be out in force to encourage revelers to enjoy the St. Patty's Day holiday responsibly.

"This should be easy by now since the message is always the same: don't drink and drive. Those who gamble on driving under the influence may find their lives changed in a moment. They're likely to lose their licenses, their freedom, or their lives as the result," said Colonel Rick Fuentes, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police.

"There's simply no excuse to drink and drive. If you plan to attend a St. Patrick's Day celebration at a local restaurant, tavern or residence, a designated driver should always be included in your plans," said Pam Fischer, Director of the Division of Highway Traffic Safety (DHTS). "You'll not only be ensuring your safety, but the safety of all those who are using our roadways."

On St. Patrick's Day 2008, 37 percent of the drivers and motorcyclists involved in fatal crashes nationally had a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 or above, according to statistics by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In addition, NHTSA statistics show that in 2008, there were 134 crash fatalities on St. Patrick's Day. Out of that number, 50 people were killed in traffic crashes that involved at least one driver with a BAC of .08 or higher.

Motorists must remain alert to pedestrians year-round, and in particular, on nights when celebrations are taking place and people may be drinking alcohol.

"If you're intoxicated and traveling on foot, the safest way to get home is to take a cab or have a sober friend or family member drive you to your doorstep," DHTS Director Fischer added.

Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Director Jerry Fischer said that under the state's alcoholic beverage control laws, liquor licensees cannot serve or sell alcohol to any person actually or apparently intoxicated in a licensed premises.

"On St. Patrick's Day, and throughout the year, liquor licensees must remain cognizant to the amount of alcohol patrons consume," ABC Director Fischer said. "By remaining vigilant, bars and restaurants can not only ensure responsible service to patrons, but also help in our mutual efforts to prevent drunk driving and the potentially serious consequences that can result from the over-consumption of alcohol."

— ANDY LAGOMARSINO, NEWJERSEYNEWSROOM.COM

 

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