St. Patrick’s Day celebrations increase risks for Chicago accidents

Thursday is St. Patrick’s Day and the beginning of a long three-days of celebrating with friends for many. Our Chicago personal injury lawyers urge you to celebrate responsibly, designate a driver, and avoid drinking and driving.

A public holiday in Ireland and an official religious holiday since the 17th Century, the Irish don’t seem to have much on the Americans when it comes down to some serious celebrating. The Chicago River was dyed on Saturday during the 56th Downtown Chicago St. Patrick’s Day Parade, according to the Chicago Tribune, leaving little doubt that the celebration will be a week-long event this year.St. Patrick — who legend has it used the Shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity to the pagan Irish — died in 461. While once largely a religious holiday, St. Patrick’s Day has become a secular celebration of Irish culture.

Few know that the original color of St. Patrick’s Day was blue. However, the use of green and of shamrocks dates back at least to the 17th Century. By 1991, the U.S. Congress had proclaimed the entire month of March Irish-American Heritage Month.

And, getting to our point, it is one of the leading days for alcohol consumption in the United States and is one of the busiest days of the year for bars and restaurants. As a result, state and local authorities are prepared for extended celebration and an increased risk of Chicago car accidents during the upcoming three-day weekend.

“We hope the St. Patrick’s Day holiday continues to be the popular and joyous celebration it has become, without being spoiled by impaired drivers,” said Illinois Transportation Secretary Gary Hannig. “For those thinking about drinking and driving, the message is clear. Don’t do it. Designate a sober driver before the party begins or risk arrest, a DUI charge or even worse. Nothing good can come from drinking and driving.”

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports 10,839 people were killed in drunk driving accidents in 2009 –or about one death every 45 minutes. Alcohol was involved in 381 of the 911 people killed in Illinois car crashes.

The Naperville police are among those reporting an increase in enforcement, according to the Naperville Patch.

The Illinois Department of Transportation reports 15 people have died and 1,261 have been injured in St. Patrick’s Day car accidents in Illinois during the last 5 years.

“The Illinois State Police and local law enforcement will increase patrols during the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in an effort to prevent alcohol-related tragedies,” said Interim Illinois State Police Director Patrick Keen. “Individuals who drive impaired will be arrested. If alcohol will be part of your celebration, designate a sober driver. As always, motorists are also reminded to buckle-up to ensure safe travel.”

From March 11 to March 17, officials will use about $800,000 in highway safety dollars to conduct roadside safety checks in Illinois, as well as saturation patrols and other impaired driving countermeasures.

Party Hosts:

-You can be held liable and prosecuted for serving alcohol to someone who is involved in a drunk driving crash.

-Make sure all guests have a sober ride home.

-Serve lots of food as well as non-alcoholic drinks.

-Keep the numbers for local cab companies handy and take the keys from anyone who is thinking about driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

For Partygoers:

-Designate a sober driver before the festivities begin.

-If you don’t have a sober ride home, ask a friend, call a cab, or stay where you are.

-Never let a friend drive impaired.

-Always wear your seat belt.

If you are involved in a Chicago accident over the St. Patrick’s Day weekend, call Abels & Annes for a free and confidential appointment to discuss your rights. Call (866) 99-ABELS. There is no fee unless you win.

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