LAFAYETTE, LA — All across south Louisiana, people are getting ready to celebrate Mardi Gras. This year, Mardi Gras falls on March 1, 2022, though balls and parties leading up to “Fat Tuesday” have already begun. To keep carnival goers safe on the roads and able to avoid congestion from parades, the Acadiana Regional Transportation Safety Coalition (ARTSC) is providing safety information and alternate route suggestions. Whether you’re heading to a Mardi Gras ball, parade, or navigating around parade routes, if your activities involve drinking alcohol, make sure you plan for a designated driver to drive you around safely when it’s time to hit the road.
“We want our community members to enjoy Mardi Gras, and everything associated with Mardi Gras, but we also want responsible drivers on the road,” said Ron Czajkowski, Safety Coordinator for ARTSC. “If you are planning to drive to or from any of the myriad of Mardi Gras events, festivities, and parades, have a plan to ensure you don’t find yourself without a designated driver if you need one. If your plans change and you need a safe ride, take advantage of Lyft or Uber or call a sober friend or relative to pick you up. If you’re hosting a Mardi Gras party event or setting up along a parade route, make sure you take care of your designated drivers. Put your family and friends in the best position to get where they want safely.
Never Drive Drunk Whether you’re attending a party, hosting one, or going out to a bar for Mardi Gras, keep safety at the forefront. When it’s time to leave, make sure your designated driver is actually sober. If he or she has decided to drink, call a sober ride. If you are driving, remember that sober driving isn’t the only law that should be followed: Make sure you — and your passengers — wear your seat belts.
For the Designated Drivers If you’re planning to be a designated driver, know that you’re the most important person in your party. No matter what, do not drink alcohol — people are relying on you. If you are attending a party or at a bar, enjoy the food, the company, and the nonalcoholic drinks.
Encourage other designated drivers on social media using the hashtag #DesignatedDriver. Your positive influence could help keep them on the right track. If someone you know has been drinking and tries to drive, take their keys and help them get home safely. Even if they make a fuss in the moment, they’ll thank you later.
For the Host If you’re hosting a party for Mardi Gras or setting up on a parade route, prepare plenty of snacks and nonalcoholic drinks for your guests and the designated drivers.
Ask your guests to designate their sober drivers in advance. Remind drinking guests that they may have a long day or evening ahead of them, and encourage them to pace themselves, to eat food, and to drink plenty of water. Another important reminder: Never serve alcohol to minors. If an underage person drinks and drives, the person who provided the alcohol can be held liable for any damage, injury, or death caused by the underage driver. In fact, you could face jail time if you host a gathering where alcohol is served to people under the age of 21.
Drug-Impaired Driving Drunk driving isn’t the only risk on the road: Drug-impaired driving is also an increasing problem. If drivers are impaired by any substance — alcohol or other drugs — they should not get behind the wheel of a vehicle. It is illegal in all states and the District of Columbia to drive impaired by alcohol or other drugs. The bottom line is this: If You Feel Different, You Drive Different. It’s that simple.
Have a Plan Whether you are attending a party or going to a bar or restaurant as a part of your Mardi Gras celebrations, make a plan and follow these simple tips for a safe and happy outing:
· Remember that it is never okay to drink and drive. Even if you’ve had only one alcoholic beverage, designate a sober driver or a ride service to get home safely.
· If available, use your community’s sober ride program
· If you see a drunk driver on the road, contact 911 or your local law enforcement agency.
· Do you have a friend who is about to drink and drive? Take the keys away and make arrangements to get your friend home safely.
In many communities, alcohol transport is also different. If your community now allows alcohol for carryout, remember to transport any alcohol for Mardi Gras in a leak-proof container, leaving stickers and seals in place. No straws should be placed in the containers. In
many states, open containers are prohibited in any seating area of a vehicle, including the driver's side, passenger side, or back seat, even if the vehicle is stopped or parked. Remember that Buzzed Driving Is Drunk Driving. Ensure you are following open container laws.
Mardi Gras only comes once a year, but remember, if you drive drunk, you may lose money, your reputation, your car, and even your life. Everyone should know by now that it is illegal to drive impaired. In 2019, there were 10,142 people killed in drunk-driving crashes. The costs can be financial, too: If you’re caught drinking and driving, you can face jail time, lose your driver’s license and your vehicle, and pay up to $10,000 in attorney’s fees, fines, higher insurance rates, and lost wages. Keep these things in mind and Laissez les bons temps rouler. For more information on the dangers of drunk driving, visit www.nhtsa.gov/risky-driving/drunk-driving.