ROCKINGHAM — Before you guzzle green beer or sip on Irish whiskey this weekend, make sure you have a ride — otherwise that ride could be in a patrol car.
The Rockingham and Hamlet police departments are warning drivers not to test their luck if they drink and drive while celebrating Saint Patrick’s Day.
Both departments will be increasing patrols “to keep impaired drivers off the roads” during the state’s holiday Booze It & Loose It campaign, according to a Facebook post. The campaign started Monday and ends March 19.
“We know alcohol tends to be a part of St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, but we implore our citizens to consume responsibly and avoid getting behind the wheel if they’ve been drinking,” RPD Chief George Gillenwater said in a statement. “Have a plan to get home safely so you don’t risk seriously injuring or killing yourself or someone else, or racking up hundreds of dollars in fines with a DWI charge.”
There were 225 alcohol-related crashes resulting in 11 deaths across the state during last year’s weeklong celebrations, according to the N.C. Department of Transportation.
“The most tragic thing about these deaths is that all of them could have been prevented and their impacts avoided, if people would just do their parts by planning ahead and ensuring they celebrate this St. Patrick’s Day responsibly,” Col. Freddy Johnson Jr., commander of the North Carolina State Highway Patrol, said in a statement.
Mark Ezzell, director of the Governor’s Highway Safety Program, encourages partiers to have a designated driver lined up.
“St. Patrick’s Day is well established as a time for celebration, but people should do so responsibly,” Ezzell, said in a statement. “Never get behind the wheel if you’ve been drinking alcohol. Drinking and driving can be deadly. Have a plan to get home safely so you don’t risk seriously injuring or killing yourself or someone else.”
RPD Sgt. Marcus Ricks is the district liaison for the Governor’s Highway Safety Program. The district includes Richmond, Anson, Stanly, Hoke, Lee, Moore, Scotland, Montgomery and Cumberland counties. Ricks took over that post following the retirement of former chief Billy Kelly, who served that role for more than a decade.