In Chicago they celebrate St. Patrick’s Day by dyeing the river green. In Boston, a parade marches through the southside. And in cities nationwide, people celebrate by raising pints of Guinness at the local pub.
It’s all a great way for people to get their green on during the most Irish day of the year. But it doesn’t bode well for drivers who happen to be on the road when revelers finally decide to leave the bars and head home.
There’s increased risk in being on the road during any holiday where boozing is the centerpiece, said former officer Phil Moser, who spent 11 years responding to fatal collisions for the Providence, Pa. Police Dept.
This St. Patrick’s Day infographic from WalletHub shows that 152.5 percent more beer is sold and 819 percent more Guinness is consumed on St. Patrick’s Day than on an average day. That’s a lot of swilling, and it calls for some adept defensive driving by sober people on the road.
In fact, 75 percent of fatal collisions on St. Patrick’s Day involve a driver who’s consumed twice the legal limit, the WalletHub infographic shows. Even pedestrians aren’t exempt. Thirty-six percent of pedestrians killed on St. Patrick’s Day in 2016 had a blood alcohol level of .08 percent or higher.
So how can commercial drivers protect themselves from drunk drivers on St. Patrick’s Day? Moser offers these valuable defensive driving tips for spotting and avoiding drunk drivers.
Sign of a drunk driver: A driver coming toward you doesn’t dim their high beams.
Defensive driving technique: If a commercial driver flips their lights at the other driver and they don’t lower their high beams, the commercial driver can keep them in their peripheral vision. “Be prepared to pull onto a shoulder or side street if you can, because high beams are a telltale sign of a drunk driver,” Moser said.
Sign of a drunk driver: A driver is weaving within his or her own lane and hugging the right or center lines.
Defensive driving technique: Keep the driver in front of you. “If they’re in front of you, they can’t hit you,” Moser said. “Definitely don’t pass them, because if they’re behind you, they can potentially collide with you."
Sign of a drunk driver: A driver is demonstrating erratic fluctuations in speed or braking hard and often.
Defensive driving technique: Keep your distance from them, Moser said. “By widening your following distance, you’ll boost your reaction time and increase your chances of avoiding a collision.”
Sign of a drunk driver: At an intersection, a driver cuts corners wide or short or fails to obey traffic signals.
Defensive driving technique: Be vigilant. Check carefully for oncoming traffic before proceeding through an intersection and be sure to yield, Moser advised.
Sign of a drunk driver: A driver stops abruptly or fails to take off at a green light. “Impairment creates a late reaction time,” Moser said. “As a police officer, every time I got called out after 11 p.m. it was in response to a serious collision caused by a drunk driver. One drink can double a person’s reaction time. And if you’ve had more than one drink, reaction time is even slower.”
Defensive driving technique: If a suspected drunk driver is behind you, make a right turn if you can and keep moving. “Since a drunk driver’s reaction time is delayed, they won’t follow you,” Moser said. “The important thing is to get out of their path.”
Sign of a drunk driver: You’re being tailgated in the dark.
Defensive driving technique: This means the driver is using your taillights as a guide. Make a right turn if you can and get them off your tail. “The peak hours for impaired drivers are between 11 p.m. and 3 a.m., so weekend nights see a lot of tailgating activity,” Moser said. “This St. Patrick’s Day falls on a Saturday, and Saturday night is a bad night for drunk driving to begin with, so any extra defensive driving techniques that commercial drivers can take will be helpful.”
Bonus tips: As always, don’t forget to wear your seatbelt. “On a day when drunk drivers are sure to be out, it could save your life,” Moser said.
Moser also urges commercial drivers to use extra caution on Sunday, March 18. “It takes a while for alcohol to get out of someone’s system,” he reasoned. “Only .015 percent of alcohol is eliminated from the body per hour. If someone drinks to a .24 blood alcohol content level, which is not unusual on St. Patrick’s Day, even if that person sleeps eight hours, their blood alcohol content will still be at .12 when they wake. And most people who shut down the bar aren’t getting eight hours of sleep.”
For more great defensive driving tips from Moser, learn how commercial drivers can protect themselves from drugged drivers on the road.