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| Arizona |

How Not to Celebrate St. Patrick's Day With a DUI Arrest

Valley motorists can expect to see signs like this one on the freeways this weekend.
Valley motorists can expect to see signs like this one on the freeways this weekend.
Arizona Department of Transportation
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This day belongs to St. Patrick, who did not bring to this world Guinness or silly bowler hats, but drove the snakes out of Ireland, allegedly.

In modern times, in this country, we honor Ole St. Pat with green beer, nontraditional Irish fare, and butchered fake brogues. And, sadly, a spike in DUI arrests.

This is one of the busiest days of the year for breathalyzers, drunk tanks, and law enforcement. It’s one of the top five DUI enforcement days of the year, along with Memorial Day, Independence Day, Cinco de Mayo, and New Year’s Eve, said Alberto Gutier, director of the Arizona Governor’s Office of Highway Safety.

Law-enforcement officers statewide made about 8,100 traffic stops during a three-day period around St. Patrick’s Day last year, up 2 percent from the year before, according to data Gutier’s office compiled.

That led to 342 DUI arrests statewide, up from 309 in 2015. The number of underage drinking tickets shot up from 29 to 47. The level of drunkenness and of repeat offenders remained mostly unchanged.

Police contacted 328 designated drivers, a sharp 14 percent jump from the 287 they talked to in 2015. The proportion of people stopped who are DDs has been steadily creeping up for the last three years, the data shows.

Gutier attributes that to state and local efforts to get the word out, plus the popularity of services such as Uber and Lyft.

But this year could be busier than normal for police.

“We’ve got a triple duty of events this year,” Gutier said, referring to the trifecta of sporting events going on in the Valley the next few days: March Madness, spring training, and a NASCAR Cup race.

Add to that cocktail the fact that St. Patrick’s Day falls on a Friday, and the chances climb sharply that you’ll seeing red and blue, not green. As Gutier is fond of saying, “Drive hammered, get nailed.”

Or, as ADOT is saying on its latest message board, there is no pot of gold, only bars.

The Phoenix Police Department will set up “saturation enforcement” patrols in five locations Friday and Saturday night.

Police in Apache Junction, Chandler, and Peoria also plan to bolster enforcement over St. Patrick’s Day weekend.

The Arizona Department of Public Safety is coordinating a string of saturation operations around the Valley, rather than DUI checkpoints.

DPS will oversee six task forces in the East Valley and two on the west side.

You’ve been warned.

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