St. Patrick’s Day is just around the corner, the Roman Catholic holiday that celebrates the patron saint of Ireland, but through the years it has taken a more celebratory tone and the California High Patrol is reminder drivers to plan ahead if they plan to drink.
The Irish holiday is a bestseller for bars, including Neil’s Lounge in Indio, bartender Mike Kearney said, "St. Patrick is one of the best ones of the year, it even does better than New Years and Christmas and stuff like that, so it’s always a great day for us."
Kearney has worked at Neil’s for 18 years, and he will pour hundreds of green beers this St. Patrick’s Day. But for the customer’s who had one too many, he said they are in luck, they can always catch a ride on their van.
"We make sure they have a good time, and we make sure they get home safely," Kearney said. "We don’t have to worry when they walk out the door, we know they are going to be fine and dandy, and they will be back the next day for their car or another drink."
Neil’s Lounge has their own shuttle van and they have been driving buzzed drivers for about eight years. They said it is a free service, but tips are always encouraged.
Kearney said, "It will be used all night, there are times in certain nights of the year we will use the second van, and St. Patrick’s some of the times turns out to be that way."
Bartenders will certainly have their hands full, but it is also a busy day for CHP officers. Officer Mike Martis said they will have patrol on high alert for, "People driving too fast or talking on their cell-phone, being distracted, not wearing their seat belts, all kinds of things, but of course our focus will be impaired driving."
The California Highway Patrol said they arrested 148 people for driving under the influence last St. Patrick’s Day, while three people were killed for DUI related accidents and 66 people were injured statewide.
Martis said people can prevent becoming a statistic by planning ahead, such as hitching a ride with a designated driver or a ride sharing app.
There are several options for staying off the road after a few drinks, including a free ride from a local bar that is available holiday or not, Kearney said, "We’re working every night, I’m sure over the years it’s been thousands of people."