Cinco De Mayo: Fiesta Time or Jail Time?

The holiday called Cinco de Mayo – Spanish for “fifth of May” – celebrates the Mexican army’s unlikely victory in the Battle of Puebla against the French army on May 5, 1862. It has its roots in the French occupation of Mexico. It’s an important day in Mexico and to Mexican-Americans in the United States.

Unfortunately, for many Americans the day is just an excuse to drink with friends. The Missoula Police Department reminds anyone joining the fiesta that too often and for too many people the evening ends in tragedy.

• In 2013, 283 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes over the Cinco de Mayo weekend nationally. Of those 283 people who lost their lives, 41 percent (115) of them died in
drunk-driving crashes. And the drivers in those crashes weren’t just a little drunk. Sadly,
one out of five (21%) of all the drivers in fatal crashes that weekend had blood alcohol concentrations (BACs) of .15 or higher – almost two times the illegal per se limit in every state.

Drunk-DrivingData from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows that drunk-driving crash fatalities are a disturbing Cinco de Mayo trend. From 2009-2013, more than a third (38%) of all traffic crash fatalities during the Cinco de Mayo holiday period (6 p.m. May 4th to 5:59 a.m. May 6th), on average, were drunk-driving related. That’s higher than the unacceptable national daily average for drunk-driving fatalities – 31 percent.

• The average DUI costs $10,000. It pays to plan ahead with a designated driver – before that first margarita or shot of tequila. Or call a friend, use zero-fare Mountain Line transit or call a taxi.

Missoula Police Department is joining with law enforcement and other partners across Montana and the nation with a safety message – and extra enforcement. Missoula officers will be out in extra patrols for the holiday, with two DUI shifts that evening.

“Our main goal is to save lives,” said Sergeant Greg Amundsen. “Around Missoula, we want to debunk the myth that you can drink a little and then get behind the wheel. You can’t. Remember that Buzzed Driving Is Drunk Driving.”

Amundsen reminds friends: If you know people who are about to drive or ride while impaired, take their keys and help them make other arrangements to get to where they are going safely.