COLUMBUS (WCMH) — We are heading into the St. Patrick’s Day weekend, which means alcohol will be flowing. So now is a good time to remind folks to not get behind the wheel if you are planning on consuming alcohol.
St. Patrick’s Day is known as a weekend-long celebration of the holiday and a reminder that spring is right around the corner. It also has a reputation for drunk driving accidents.
Karen Kwiatkowski was an 18-yr-old who had graduated from high school and was on spring break in her freshman year of college when she was involved in a drunk driving crash.
“It was March 6th, 11 days before St. Patrick’s Day.” Her sister Deanna Russo reminisced about that awful time 20 years ago.
Russo said her sister and friend Katy were running errands and driving home after meeting her parents at the mall.
“He was going 55 in a 30 police said. Crossed over a yellow line and crashed head-on into them.”
Russo said the man registered a blood alcohol content of .14. Nearly double the legal limit of alcohol.
“Katy survived the crash and Karen was killed almost instantly,” Russo said. She said the driver pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and assault and served 10 years in prison. This also was not his first time for receiving an OVI.“It is not an accident, someone does not take a drink of alcohol and then accidentally put the keys in the ignition of a three-ton-weapon. In the end, it is a choice.”
Russo said those drinking alcohol this weekend have choices.
“You know you are not taking innocent lives at risk and people like my sister are not going to die because of a mistake,” Russo said.
Byrne’s Pub on 3rd Ave. on the border of Grandview and Columbus is all Irish, with a big party planned for this weekend. Co-owner Pat Byrne said he knows the responsibility that goes along with owning a bar.
“We have been involved with Central Ohio Safe Ride for 11 years now. It was created with myself and Scott Neff over in Fado Irish Pub in Easton,” Byrne said. In fact, the Franklin County DUI Taskforce had its latest meeting at the pub this week.
Both pubs are offering taxi vouchers all year and Uber discounts for those who should not be driving.
“We do usually for St. Patrick’s Day, Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day,” Byrne said. He said many of his customers will take a taxi, Uber or Lyft to the pub, so they are not leaving a vehicle there if they need a ride home.
“Besides it is only smart because finding parking around our pub can difficult,” Byrne said.
If you are planning on drinking alcohol this weekend check with your establishment before you drink to see if they offer safe rides.