Don’t Leave it to Luck: Designate a Driver on St. Pat’s Day

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The best way to be a good neighbor on St. Patrick’s Day is to make sure friends don’t get behind the wheel while impaired. The California Highway Patrol and Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) are urging people to serve as designated drivers.

MADD officials said the popular holiday has become “quite dangerous” due to a large volume of impaired drivers. On St. Patrick’s Day in 2009, 37 percent of the crash fatalities that day involved alcohol, according to the MADD website.

This year the organization has coupons you can print or send to others celebrating the designated driver status. “Kiss Me…Tonight I’m DD”, and “Keep Luck on Your Side; Don’t Drink and Drive”, are available at no charge. You can even upload a photo and insert it in the middle of a four-leaf clover on the “Luck” coupon.

The CHP announced it will be on the lookout for impaired drivers this weekend.

“Driving under the influence is just not an option,” said CHP Chief Teresa Becher in a statement this week. “If you sit behind the steering wheel of a vehicle and make the decision to drink excessively and drive, you are putting lives in danger. It could be your parent, a spouse, a child, a friend, whose life maybe erased in just seconds.”

Taxis are also an option, as is the Bay Area nonprofit Sober Drivers, which offers pickup service for inebriated partiers. A team is dispatched so that one team member drives the client’s car, with the other following behind in a team car. The cost is $25 for the pickup, and $4 per mile. The organization takes online reservations in advance, or you can call 24 hours a day at 1-800-787-6617.

If you find yourself in a situation with an impaired friend who insists on driving, here are some tips from friendsdrivesober.org:

Take the keys away. Here are some hints on how to get the keys from a drunken person before he or she can drive:

  • Be calm. Joke about it. Make light of it.
  • Make it clear that you’re doing him a favor by taking their keys.
  • Find the keys while he is distracted and take them away. They’ll probably think they’ve lost them and will be forced to let someone else drive.
  • If it is a close friend, be soft and calm. Speak to him or her privately and suggest that they let someone else drive, or take a cab or a bus.
  • If it is a good friend, spouse, or loved one, refuse to get in the car with them. Tell him or her you will ride with someone else, take public transportation, or walk.
  • If you don’t know the person well, speak to their friends and ask them to help get the keys.
  • If possible, do not embarrass the person or be confrontational.

The CHP is also encouraging anyone who sees a suspected impaired driver to report it by calling 911 immediately.

Here’s a list from MADD on how to spot an impaired driver:

  • Quick acceleration or deceleration
  • Tailgating
  • Weaving or zig-zagging across the road
  • Driving anywhere other than on a road designated for vehicles
  • Almost striking an object, curb, or vehicle
  • Stopping without cause or erratic braking
  • Drifting in and out of traffic lanes
  • Signaling that is inconsistent with driving actions
  • Slow response to traffic signals (e.g. sudden stop or delayed start)
  • Straddling the center lane marker
  • Driving with headlights off at night
  • Swerving
  • Driving slower than 10 mph below the speed limit
  • Turning abruptly or illegally
  • Driving into opposing traffic on the wrong side of the road

Have a safe and happy St. Patrick’s Day!