It’s Mardi Gras season and time to laissez les bons temps rouler with parades and parties, food and fun.
It’s also one of the state’s deadliest times of year, with many injuries and fatalities due to alcohol-involved crashes.
During Louisiana’s five-day Mardi Gras holiday in 2018, there were 465 fatal and injury crashes, tying with Christmas for the most in a holiday period, according to figures from the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission. The crashes resulted in six deaths. Alcohol was involved in 46 of the crashes and two of the deaths.
Each year, hundreds of Shreveport Police work the parades to keep revelers safe by making arrests for DWI and underage drinking.
To reduce the carnage, the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission, in partnership with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, provides grants to law enforcement agencies across the state to fund DWI checkpoints and other additional enforcement activities from Feb. 17-March 28 as part of a Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign.
A first-offense DWI arrest can cost thousands of dollars in fines plus court costs, result in suspension of driving privileges for up to a year and even result in jail time. In Louisiana, an adult is legally intoxicated with a blood alcohol content of .08 or greater. The limit for drivers under 21 is .02 BAC.
While many drinkers rely on the “one-drink-per-hour” rule to keep their blood alcohol level under the .08 threshold for DWI arrest, the practice is unreliable at best. Such factors as age, gender, weight, drink strength, metabolism, food consumed and body type influence the rate of intoxication, so no two people react the same to the identical amount of alcohol.
If you plan to celebrate Mardi Gras with alcohol at parades or parties, the safest way to prevent a DWI arrest or crash is to designate a driver.
Here are more tips for those who choose to drink from Tulane Medical Center:
- Keep track of your drinking and pace yourself.
- Eat food (especially protein) and drink water throughout the day.
- Know the source of your drinks. Don’t accept drinks from strangers.
- Sweet drinks (daiquiris, hurricanes, margaritas) can mask the taste of alcohol so you are less aware of how strong the drink is.
- Mixing alcohol and energy drinks increases the risk of dehydration and alcohol overdose because caffeine masks the effects of alcohol.
- Have a plan to get home. Appoint a designated driver or save the number of local cab companies in your phone. Do not ride in the car of an intoxicated driver.
Parade safety tips
Mardi Gras parades are often rowdy, but they don’t have to be reckless. Here are tips from ThinkFirst of the Ark-La-Tex to keep your parade experience safe:
- Stay behind lines, barricades and markings, leaving room for bands, floats and vehicles.
- Cross streets only at crosswalks and beware of traffic.
- Be extra careful driving and walking near parade routes.
- Stay close to your group, especially children and parents.
- Establish a meeting place in case you get separated.
- Make sure your child has identification with contact information.
- Keep beads, trinkets and plastic bags out of reach of small children.
- Make sure costumes are age appropriate and safety conscious.
- Respect the law.