- The Washington Times - Monday, March 15, 2004

The Washington Regional Alcohol Program (WRAP) is warning drivers to be extra cautious tomorrow night during the most drunken holiday of the year — St. Patrick’s Day.

“In 2002, more Americans were killed by drunk drivers during St. Patrick’s Day than on New Year’s Eve,” said WRAP President Kurt Gregory Erickson. “In fact, during St. Patrick’s Day in this country, [45.6 percent] of all traffic fatalities involve alcohol.”

At 6 a.m. tomorrow, Metropolitan police will begin checking bars and clubs to ensure they are not overcrowded or selling drinks to drunken patrons. The random checks will continue into tomorrow night.

What’s more, police vans will be used to test and detain drunken drivers until 4 a.m. Thursday, said police Lt. Patrick Burke. Designated drivers, the Metro transit system and the area-wide SoberRide program that provides free cab rides will help keep drunken drivers off the streets, he added.

“There’s no reason for anybody to be drunk and driving,” Lt. Burke said. “Being a good Irish boy, I want [St. Patrick’s Day] to be good and safe.”

In so-called “saturation patrols,” police will closely monitor areas known for excessive drinking.

Arlington County police tomorrow will employ their Alcohol Safety Action Program to stop, warn or arrest impaired drivers, police spokesman Matt Martin said. Police usually use the program every weekend.

Montgomery County police will begin saturation patrols at 9 p.m. and continue until 2 a.m. Thursday. The specially trained alcohol enforcement officers will be patrolling in all six police districts, police spokesman Officer Derek Baliles said.

“We’re not going to be disappointed if we don’t find anybody to arrest,” Officer Baliles said.

Many off-duty Alexandria police officers will be in uniform outside bars and taverns, which will pay them for the part-time overtime work, police spokesman Capt. John Crawford said.

WRAP’s SoberRide program provides free taxi rides home, up to $50 fares, for drinkers more than 21 years old in the metropolitan area. It will be available from 4 p.m. tomorrow to 4 a.m. Thursday by calling 800/200-TAXI (8295).

Since 1993, SoberRide has given 25,404 free cab rides home certain holidays. On St. Patrick’s Day last year, it provided 275 free rides, or one every five minutes, Mr. Erickson said.

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