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Virginia Highway Safety Office News Releases

Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Media Contact: Melanie Stokes
Department of Motor Vehicles
(804) 367-6623

St. Patrick's Day Celebrations Usually Include Alcohol
Always Have a Designated Sober Driver

RICHMOND - Before heading to your local pub or celebration this St. Patrick's Day, the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) encourages Virginians to help keep the streets safe by drinking responsibly and designating a sober driver.

On St. Patrick's Day in 2008, 45 alcohol-related crashes occurred in Virginia involving 71 drivers. Sixty-five percent of the 71 drivers were drinking. Thirty-five, or 78 percent, of the 45 crashes happened between 4 p.m. and 3 a.m. The three Virginia jurisdictions with the most alcohol-related crashes on St. Patrick's Day last year were Fairfax County, Richmond City and Smyth County.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 851 people nationally lost their lives in crashes during the St. Patrick's Day holiday over the past five years. Out of that number, 327 were killed in crashes that involved a drunk driver or motorcycle operator with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or higher.

The tragedies from drunk driving are not limited to death, disfigurement, disability or injury. Convicted drunk drivers face jail time, loss of their driver's license, higher insurance rates, and dozens of other expenses including attorney fees, fines, court costs and lost time at work.

"St. Patrick's Day is supposed to be a time to celebrate and gather with friends, but it can quickly end in tragedy if someone drinks and gets behind the wheel," said John Saunders, Director of DMV's Virginia Highway Safety Office (VAHSO). "If you plan on drinking, be responsible and choose a HERO."

By staying sober this St. Patrick's Day, you can "Be a HERO, Be a Designated Driver." The HERO is the person who pledges to stay sober to make sure friends and family arrive home safely. Many establishments across Virginia are agreeing to become HERO-friendly by providing non-alcoholic beverages to HEROs. For more information on the HERO program, visit

"By designating a sober driver, Virginians can enjoy a safe and fun-filled St. Patrick's Day without putting their lives and the lives of others in harm's way," Saunders said. "And whenever you are out driving, remember to always buckle up; it's your best defense against impaired drivers."

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