(WFXR) – St. Patrick’s Day is all about celebration, but if you climb into a vehicle with too much alcohol in your system, that can end up ruining more than just a fun night.

“A popular holiday and unofficial start of spring, St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in America date back to this country’s founding and celebrate the roots of millions with Irish ancestry,” Virginia State Police said in a statement on Friday, March 12. “Unfortunately, these celebrations have resulted in St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, becoming one of the year’s most dangerous times to be on the road.”

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), during the 2019 St. Patrick’s Day weekend alone — which includes data between 6 p.m. on March 16 and 5:59 a.m. on March 18 — 63 percent of crash-related fatalities involved a drunk driver.

In fact, from 2015 to 2019, a total of 280 lives were lost in drunk-driving crashes during the St. Patrick’s Day period nationwide, officials say.

The Virginia DMV also reported 140 alcohol-related crashes, 60 injuries , and two preventable deaths during St. Patrick’s Day weekend in 2020.

“As COVID-19 cases start to drop and more people get vaccinated, Virginians are venturing towards a more normal life and are eager to find a reason to celebrate,” said Col. Gary T. Settle, Virginia State Police Superintendent. “Don’t let your first celebration be your last. And, just like practicing COVID-19 safety is about the entire community, so is not drinking and driving. Getting behind the wheel when intoxicated is a choice – a choice with deadly consequences for you, your passengers and every other motorist sharing the road with you.”

Virginia State Police remind community members that, even on St. Patrick’s Day, safety is not about luck, so if you’re going to party, party with a plan:

  • Make sure you have a designated sober driver, a plan to use public transportation, or a ride share service before any drinking begins.
  • Remember that buzzed driving is drunk driving. Be honest with yourself and know that even if you only plan on having one drink, you should plan on having a designated driver.
  • If you see a drunk driver on the road, pull over safely and either dial #77 or call 911.
  • If you know someone who has been drinking and is about to drive, take the keys and make arrangements to get them home safely.

To further prevent traffic deaths and injuries during St. Patrick’s Day and during the traditional Spring Break season, Virginia State Police say they will be participating in Operation C.A.R.E., the Crash Awareness and Reduction Effort from 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, March 13 until midnight on Sunday, March 21.

In addition, all Virginians are encouraged to keep safety first anytime you are behind the wheel.

“Always buckle up, avoid distractions, put your phone down, share the road and don’t drink and drive,” said Virginia State Police.