Partying on St. Pat’s? Big Island police urge revelers to plan to have a sober driver

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Too many Irish whiskey shots or green beers could have more consequences than just a hangover the morning after your St. Patrick’s Day revelry. If you get caught driving under the influence of any substance, you will be arrested

St. Patrick’s Day is one of the biggest drinking occasions of the year and, unfortunately, means an increased risk of drunk drivers on the roads. To help keep the Big Island safe, the Hawai‘i Police Department is teaming up with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to spread the message about the dangers of driving under the influence of an intoxicant.

“This year, St. Patrick’s Day falls on a Friday, and that means more parties throughout the weekend,” Torey Keltner, program manager for the Hawai‘i Police Department Traffic Services Section, said in a press release. “We ask people to be more responsible about the safety of their friends, family and themselves.”

Impaired driving is one of the most significant dangers on island roadways. Last year, there were 34 traffic fatalities on the Big Island, the highest number of deaths since 2012, when there were 38. Of those 34 deaths last year, impairment was a factor in half. In 2021, there were 26 traffic fatalities on Hawai‘i Island, with 21 because of impairment from drugs, alcohol or a combination of both.


“If you’ve been drinking, make the smart choice to plan for a completely sober driver to get you and your friends home safely,” Keltner said. “Before you put your keys in the ignition, remind yourself: ‘Buzzed Driving Is Drunk Driving.’ Hawai‘i Island police will have heightened enforcement this weekend to be on the lookout for impaired drivers.”

While DUI arrests are down slightly so far this year, 211 compared with 231 during the same period last year, the number of major traffic crashes is increasing with 180 major crashes so far in 2023 compared with 146 during the same period last year. “Vehicle crashes are preventable, we just need to do our part, added Keltner. One of the easiest things we can do is to just not drive impaired in any way.”

This is why Hawai‘i Police Department is working with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to remind drivers that drunk driving is not only illegal, it is a matter of life and death.


“Drunk drivers are a continuing problem on our nation’s roads, especially around days like St. Patrick’s Day,” Keltner said. “People need to know that they can go out for a night of fun and return home safely by ensuring they have a sober driver take them home. Don’t be the reason someone — including yourself — doesn’t get home. Don’t let St. Patrick’s Day become an anniversary of a tragic night.”

Party with a plan and be honest with yourself: you know if you’ll be drinking or not. Follow these tips to ensure you and your fellow partygoers stay safe:

  • Plan ahead. If you wait until you’ve been drinking to make a smart decision, you might not. Before you have one drink, designate a sober driver.
  • You have options. Designate a sober driver, call a taxi or use a ride-share service. Getting home safely is always worth it.
  • If it’s your turn to be the designated driver, take your job seriously and don’t drink.
  • Do you have a friend who is about to drink and drive? Take the keys away and let a sober driver get your friend home safely.

If you see a drunk driver on the road, call 9-1-1 or the Police Department’s non-emergency line at 808-935-3311. St. Patrick’s Day doesn’t have to end with you in jail — or worse.


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