As cultural celebrations go, Cinco de Mayo and St. Patrick’s Day have a lot in common.
Both are celebrated by large immigrant populations. Both traditionally involve copious libations. Which in turn draws the attention of lots of highway patrol and police cruisers.
You’re also liable to get treated to some occasionally amusing freeway road signs by ADOT, though folks at the state highway agency say they have no plans for any this year.
The Arizona Department of Transportation has earned a bit of a rep in recent years for its quirky public safety campaigns.
For March 17, we were all treated to “Luck of the Irish won’t help you if you drive drunk,” and “Drunk drivers find steel bars not a pot ’o gold.” Folks at ADOT like to get into the festive spirit, too. For Thanksgiving, they fed us “Gobble, gobble. Go easy on the throttle,” and for New Year’s Eve, “Designated drivers make the best New Year’s dates.”
So, where are the ADOT Cinco signs? And how about a little Spanish to celebrate Arizona’s cultural diversity? Or Spanglish, anyway: “Los borrachos son bad hombres,” perhaps?
Yeah. I agree. That’s one reason I don’t work at ADOT.
But there is a dark side to all this revelry. People do drink and drive. Some get hurt. Some hurt others. Many get arrested.
The numbers, compiled by the Arizona Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, are startlingly similar to those for St. Patrick’s Day.
Last year, police arrested 378 drivers on DUI charges over the Cinco weekend compared the 358 for the same period around St. Patrick’s Day. The average blood alcohol content was the same: a tick over 0.14.
Over St. Patrick’s Day, police stopped 228 designated drivers. Over Cinco de Mayo, officers spoke with 308.
If past years are any indication, there will something close to 2,000 officers involved in DUI enforcement over the next three days. The Arizona Department of Public Safety hasn’t released its saturation enforcement and DUI checkpoint locations yet, but you know they’ll be out there.
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Complicating matters, ADOT says there will significant roadworks and detours and a number of busy freeways over the weekend. Most significant among them, parts of northbound Interstate 17 and parts of the I-10/Loop 202/Route 51 “Mini Stack” will be closed on Friday night.
If lots of sauce (and I’m not referring to the salsa) and road closures are not enough to contend with, the high temperatures on Cinco de Mayo were expected to reach 105 degrees. The combination of all three makes a recipe for a really bad margarita.