Drinking safety encouraged, enforced for St. Patrick's Day

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - St. Patrick's Day partygoers could go from wearing green garb to an orange jumpsuit if they choose to drive after drinking.

"As you leave the bars, you are probably going to see a trooper or some type of law enforcement in those areas because we just need to keep everybody safe and make sure the right decisions are being made," South Carolina Highway Patrol Corporal Sonny Collins said.

Cpl. Collins said troopers are increasing their presence around the area from Thursday onward to crack down on drunk drivers because St. Patrick's Day marks the beginning of an entire season of increased drinking and traffic.

He said college students are also in town for spring break right now, high school spring breaks will follow that, then Bike Weeks begin as summer tourists start to roll in. South Carolina Highway Patrol troopers will be making their presence known throughout the next several months.

Cpl. Collins recommends people have a plan for how to get home before they start drinking.

He said sober drivers can tell if someone is driving drunk near them if that driver is weaving, keeping high beams on in oncoming traffic, driving below the speed limit or stopping for green lights. People can call *HP or *47 to report suspicious driving to SCHP.

Bartenders will also be on the lookout for excessive drinking.

"We're pretty good about monitoring how many drinks we give you per hour so we're not over-serving," said Mickie Hite, restaurant manager for Coastal Ale House. "We don't want anyone to have a wreck or get a DUI. We don't want that to come from this bar."

Coastal Ale House prepared for the holiday by bringing in extra wait staff.

"We get slammed and that runs until about 11 o'clock," Hite said.

Thursday is also college night. Staff members are trained to identify fake IDs. They also look out for anyone who might not be able to drive home.

"We're a mom and pop bar. We know everyone here," Hite said. "Your neighbor sitting next to you normally will give you a ride, if not, two more down. We use Uber a lot around here."

Coastal Carolina University has its own initiative to get students home from bars called Smart Ride.

"They kind of compiled a list of local cab companies that provide discounts to CCU students, so they have that available," said Lee Carter, who spearheads alcohol prevention initiatives at CCU.

Carter said prevention goes on throughout the year, not just around specific drinking holidays. She said a group called The Shell Squad surveys students on their drinking habits and shares those results with the student body to encourage safe alcohol consumption.

"We feel like giving them the education empowers them to make decisions that are going to help them be successful," she said.

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