FORT HUACHUCA, Arizona -- On March 17, millions of Americans will be participating in St. Patrick's Day events, but unfortunately, too many people are taking to the roads after drinking alcohol making the holiday one of our most dangerous.

St. Patrick's Day has become one of the nation's biggest times to celebrate and party. In fact, 30 people were killed in drunk driving crashes across the nation during the 2015 St. Patrick's Day holiday period from 6 p.m. March 16 to 5:59 a.m. March 18.

That's why Fort Huachuca and local police organizations are teaming up with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to reach all drivers with an important life-saving message and warning: Buzzed Driving Is Drunk Driving.

According to NHTSA, 252 people lost their lives in drunk driving-related crashes during the St. Patrick's Day holiday period from 2011-2015. More than a fourth of them were killed in drunk driving crashes that occurred in the early morning, post-party hours from midnight to 5:59 a.m.

"These needless deaths could have been prevented," said Capt. Adrian Galindo, Fort Huachuca's deputy chief of police. "Planning a sober ride home before the party begins is the first step in staying safe on St. Patrick's Day. Don't wait until you've already been drinking to make your transportation decision. Designate your sober driver in advance and never get behind the wheel if you've been drinking. Remember, buzzed driving is drunk driving."

Another concern of note said Galindo, "this time of year also involves Spring Break and binge drinking."

College students across the nation celebrate this event between March and April. These two months are extremely dangerous for students between the ages of 18 and 24. Statistically 1,825 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die each school year from alcohol-related unintentional injuries.

One of the greatest dangers is alcohol poisoning. Extremely high levels of alcohol reduce the automatic, involuntary drive to breathe, so people with alcohol poisoning are at risk for death because they can stop breathing. High levels of alcohol associated with binge drinking can impair the gag reflex, lead to vomiting, and risk for aspiration into the lungs and potentially inability to breathe spontaneously.

Signs of alcohol poisoning include slow and irregular breathing, vomiting, confusion and may lapse into unconsciousness. If these are observed, the heavily intoxicated person should be taken to the emergency room or seek emergency medical assistance immediately.
If you plan to celebrate this St. Patrick's Day, follow these tips to stay safe:

-- Before celebrating St. Patrick's Day this year, decide whether you'll drink or you'll drive. You can't do both.

-- If you're planning on driving, commit to staying sober. If you've been out drinking and then get behind the wheel, you run the risk of causing a crash or getting arrested for a DUI.

-- If you have been drinking, call a taxi or sober friend or family member, use public transportation or utilize the Fort Huachuca Safe Ride Program. Also, try NHTSA's SaferRide mobile app, which helps users call a taxi or a friend for a ride home and identify their location so they can be picked up.

-- Help those around you be responsible, too. Walking while intoxicated can also be deadly, as lack of attention could put you at risk of getting hit by a vehicle. If someone you know is drinking, do not let them get behind the wheel and help them find a sober ride home.

-- If you see someone who appears to be driving drunk, call the police. Your actions could help save a life.

Remember this St. Patrick's Day, plan before you party. Buzzed driving is drunk driving.