Saturday morning, thousands of people will fllood into downtown Roanoke for St. Patricks Day festivities. And when the parade is over, many people will still be celebrating with an alcoholic beverage.
"And I want people to have a good time," said Roanoke Police Chief Chris Perkins, "but I want them to also be responsible and think about what the consequences are if they decide to drink and drive."
Thursday morning, the region's police departments and sheriff's offices joined Mothers Against Drunk Driving to highlight the hazard. And this year could be more dangerous than most
"Any holiday that ties into a weekend tends to end up with more drinking and driving," said MADD Virginia Manager Chris Konschak. "People get a little carried away having a few extra hours on their hands."
Consider the statistics released by AAA-Midatlantic. When St. Patrick's Day falls on a Saturday, the number of alcohol related crashes nearly doubles. The last time that happened was 2007. That year there were 49 alcohol related crashes in Virginia, compared with 20 in 2009, 25 in 2010, 28 in 2011.
"Any of the holidays, New Year's, we always try to put out extra officers," Said Salem Police Chief Jeff Dudley.
"We just want to send out the warning, that we're going to be out there in full force looking to take these drunk drivers off the road," said Virginia State Police Sergeant Robert Carpentieri.
Salem Delegate Greg Habeeb encouraged everyone to look out for others who may have had too much to drink. "The reality is every one of us will have a chance this week, this weekend, next week will have a chance to stop somebody driving drunk," he said. "If we don't take responsibility, we aren't looking out for our own families."