Troopers increasing St. Patrick’s weekend patrols

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St. Patrick’s Day has become one of the nation’s biggest times to celebrate and party. But state officials say too many people are taking to the roads after drinking alcohol, making the holiday among the most dangerous.

The North Carolina Governor’s Highway Safety Program and the N.C. Department of Transportation are partnering with the N.C. Highway Patrol and local law enforcement throughout the state for the annual St. Patrick’s Day Booze It and Lose It campaign, which began Thursday and continues through Sunday night.

During the 2016 St. Patrick’s Day holiday period (6 p.m. March 16 to 5:59 a.m. March 18), nine people died in drunk driving crashes across North Carolina.

“These needless deaths could have been prevented,” said Don Nail, director of the Governor’s Highway Safety Program. “Planning to have a sober driver before you take a sip of green beer is the first step in staying safe on St. Patrick’s Day. Don’t wait until you’ve already been drinking to make your transportation decision. Designate your sober driver in advance, and never get behind the wheel if you’ve been drinking.”

State law makes it illegal to drive with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or higher.

The mission of the Booze It & Lose It campaign aligns closely with the N.C. Vision Zero initiative, which aims to eliminate all traffic-related injuries and fatalities through coordinated efforts with public and private partners in traffic safety.

Officials recommend following these simple tips for a safe St. Patrick’s celebration if you plan to drink:

• Before you head out to a parade, party, or local pub, plan a way to safely get home at the end of the night. Visit BeSmarterThanThat.com and designate a sober driver, download a ride app, check on public transportation availability or program a taxi number into your mobile phone.

• Walking impaired can be just as dangerous as drunken driving. Designate a sober friend to get you home.

• If you see an impaired driver on the road, contact local law enforcement immediately.

• If you know someone who has been drinking and is about to drive, take their keys and help them make safe travel arrangements to where they are going.