NEWBERRY — Don’t depend on the luck of the Irish to get you home safely this St. Patrick’s Day weekend: If you plan to drink, be sure to have a designated driver.
An estimated 275,000 people were injured in wrecks where police reported that alcohol was present, according to the S.C. Department of Public Safety. That’s an average of one person injured every two minutes.
The rate of injuries also increases drastically after dark, with the rate of alcohol involvement in wrecks more than three times as high at night as during the day (76 percent versus 24 percent).
This weekend, there will be events from downtown’s Irish Fling to St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in Five Points in downtown Columbia.
Sheriff Lee Foster said the Newberry County Sheriff’s Department plans to conduct business as usual this weekend.
His advice to those headed out in green to celebrate? “Be safe and use good judgement,” Foster said.
Foster said the biggest thing to remember is that if you plan to drink, do not drive — have a designated driver. The definition of a designated driver, Foster said, is someone who has not had anything to drink. Even a few drinks could impair your judgement and ability to think clearly.
According to South Carolina law, if you have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 percent or higher, it will be inferred that you were driving under the influence.
If you have a BAC that is at least 0.05 percent but less than 0.08 percent, your BAC level might be considered along with other evidence to infer that you are under the influence.
Newberry Police Chief Jackie Swindler said their plan to to provide patrol of the areas downtown during this weekend’s Irish Fling so that everyone is safe.
Areas will be marked off during Irish Fling to notify the community that alcohol is not allowed beyond that point, although it is allowed within the parameters marked along Main Street, Swindler said.
“We’ll be there to make sure everyone is taken care of and has a good time,” Swindler said. “Be mindful of what you consume and drink responsibly.”
Even if you plan to do your own thing this weekend for St. Patrick’s Day, be aware of those who do not heed the rules. Be a defensive driver and pay close attention to what others around you are doing. Below are some signs from the S.C. Department of Public Safety that could indicate the driver of a vehicle is impaired.
Be on the lookout for drivers who are:
• Making unusually wide turns.
• Straddling the center line or driving with their tires on the center line.
• Almost hitting another vehicle or other object or person.
• Driving with excessive speed or very slow speed.
• Following too closely.
• Changing speeds rapidly or very slowly.
If you see a driver you believe is impaired, here are some tips to stay out of harm’s way.
• Stay back. If you are driving behind someone you suspect is impaired, maintain a greater following distance. Do not try to pass that vehicle because the driver may try to swerve into your car.
• Turn off the roadway. If you think there is an impaired driver behind you, turn right at the closest possible place and let him pass.
• Report the driver to law enforcement. Once you get safely away from the impaired driver, you should report the driver to the nearest law enforcement agency as soon as possible.
The Newberry City Police Department can be reached at 321-1010, and the Sheriff’s Office can be reached at 405-7700. Be prepared to provide a description of the vehicle, the vehicle’s license plate number and the location and direction of travel of the vehicle.