St. Patrick's Day not biggest holiday for DUI arrests

Although St. Patrick's Day has the image of a hard-partying, hard-drinking holiday, Augusta law enforcement officials said it's not typically their busiest day for catching intoxicated drivers.

In Georgia, the largest holiday celebration is in Savannah, and that seems to siphon away a large portion of the area's St. Patrick's Day partygoers, said Richmond County sheriff's Lt. Scott Gay.

"It has never been that big of an issue," he said. "It's just not that big of an event here."

Also, because most people don't have the day off work, it makes for a much quieter celebration -- as opposed to the top DUI holidays, New Year's Eve and Independence Day.

"Most of the parties for St. Patty's Day are pretty well-behaved," Gay said.

With 131 arrests, March 2009 was the fifth-highest for DUI, tied with April, according to last year's statistics from the sheriff's office. The busiest month was May, with 154 arrests.

In Columbia County, March was the second-highest month in 2009, with 36 arrests.

Still, there is a consistent problem with people getting behind the wheel while intoxicated, said Capt. Steve Morris, of the Columbia County Sheriff's Office.

"We've said this before, and it's worth repeating: Calling a friend or calling a taxi is cheaper than a DUI, a lot cheaper than a burial and substantially more pleasant than an arrest," Morris said.

Robert Hightower, of Robert's Cab in North Augusta, hopes he gets that call. St. Patrick's Day brings a busy night for cab drivers, who make regular trips to and from downtown bars.

Broad Street and Washington Road are the busiest for Brian Smoot and his drivers at Speedy Cab. But St. Patrick's Day still can't top New Year's, he said.

2009 Arrests

Drunken driving arrests in 2009 in Richmond and Columbia counties:

            Richmond Columbia

January 124     37

February 107     23

March 131     36

April 131     17

May 154     35

June 132     34

July 122     26

August 124     30

September 125     18

October 128     32

November 147     35

December 134     19

NEED A RIDE?

Call (800) AAA-HELP. In Georgia, Budweiser and AAA Auto Club South have free rides home and tows from bars or restaurants.