Celebrate safely on St. Patrick’s Day

St. Patrick’s Day is Sunday and with that, everyone will be thinking green: green parades, green and yes of course, a lot of green beer and whiskey.

Drinking celebrations will be taking place all over Michigan and Wisconsin with people toasting to the Irish.

In fact, about one in 10 Wisconsin residents claims at least some Irish ancestry.

But for many Wisconsin residents-even those without Irish ancestry-St. Patrick’s Day is a great time to celebrate with families and friends.

Unfortunately, some will be sampling as many shots and pints they can drink in as short of time possible (binge drinking).

This ritual has turned March 17 from a fun religious holiday into one of the most alcohol fueled days of the year, reports Andy Deloney, chairman of the Michigan Liquor Control Commission.

“This is festive holiday certainly provides increased business, however it is the responsibility of our licensees to make sure that they do not over-serve their patrons,” said Deloney. “In addition to the health and social dangers of over serving, doing so is a violation with fines up to $1,000, with the possibility of a suspension or revocation of a license. If you’re not sure, don’t serve.”

Binge drinking occurs when a man consumes five or more drinks or a woman consumes four or more drinks in a short period of time.

Because women metabolize alcohol less efficiently than men and usually have less body mass, they become more intoxicated with a comparable number of drinks.

One drink is generally calculated as a 12 oz. bottle of beer or wine cooler, a 5 oz glass of wine or 1.5 oz of 80-proof distilled spirits.

If you are going out to party this St. Patrick’s Day, please remember that just because the beer is green, it does not stop you from the side effects of binge drinking and the dangers of driving intoxicated.

In fact, the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning encourages motorists to designate a sober driver before heading out to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.

Individuals who chose to drive drunk after celebrating at the local tavern could face serious penalties and costly fines, officials warn.

Law enforcement agencies in 26 Michigan counties are conducting more than 13,200 hours of extra patrols to arrest drunk drivers through April 8.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re out rooting for your favorite team at the local sports bar or celebrating the luck of the Irish at the corner pub, if alcohol is part of the festivities make sure you designate a sober driver to get you home safely,” said Michael L. Prince, OHSP director. “Extra officers will be out on patrol, and if you’re caught driving drunk you will be arrested.”

In Michigan, it is illegal to drive with a BAC of .08 or higher, although motorists can be arrested at any BAC level if an officer feels they are impaired.

Michigan motorists also face enhanced penalties for a first-time conviction with a .17 BAC or higher, under the state’s high BAC law.

And Wisconsin requires first-offense OWI drivers who were convicted with a blood/breath alcohol level of .15 or higher and all repeat drunken drivers to install at their own expense an ignition interlock device (IID) on every vehicle that they own or have registered in their name.

An IID, which measures breath- alcohol levels, makes convicted drunken drivers prove they are sober before they can operate a motor vehicle.

The expense, hassle, and embarrassment of a drunken driving arrest are not the worst things that can happen if you drive while impaired.

Someone is killed or injured in an alcohol-related crash nearly every two hours in Wisconsin.

Instead of risking an arrest for impaired driving on St. Patrick’s Day or even worse-killing or injuring yourself or someone else- Wisconsin and Michigan officials offer the following suggestions:

– Before you start partying, choose a sober designated driver.

– If you’re feeling buzzed, you probably are over the 0.08 (alcohol concentration) limit and should not drive.

– Take a taxicab or ask a sober friend to drive you home.

– Avoid shots and drinking games.

– Be prepared to say “no thanks” to offers for more to drink, so that when it’s offered you will stick to your limit.

Alcohol Use Guidelines

These guidelines are for those over 21 years who have no physical or psychological conditions or medications.

– Men: maximum of 3 drinks in any day, on a maximum of 4 days per week, or a maximum total of 10 drinks per week.

– Women: maximum of 2 drinks in any day, on maximum of 4 days per week, or a maximum total of 8 drinks per week.

– People over 55 years: Do not have more than one drink per day and do not drink daily on a regular basis.

Enjoy the holiday, but remember, don’t try to out-drink the Leprechaun.