Along with New Year’s Eve and St. Patrick’s Day, Cinco de Mayo has become one of the days of the year Americans most associate with drinking. A quick look at social media shows thousands of posts tagged with two of the holiday’s nicknames: Cinco de Drinko and Drinko de Mayo.
But while many people are looking forward tequila-laced drinks and sombreros, law enforcement agencies are gearing up for more drunk drivers on the roads, especially because this year’s holiday falls on a Friday.
Why we drink on Cinco de Mayo
Cinco de Mayo, which commemorates a Mexican battle victory over the French, didn’t gain wide-spread popularity as a U.S. holiday until the 1960s, when it became a way for Mexican-Americans to celebrate their heritage and for Anglo-Americans to learn about Mexican culture.
In the 1980s, alcohol companies saw the holiday as a prime marketing opportunity, and the link between Cinco de Mayo and drinking began. Many bars and restaurants now emphasize the connection in their advertising with “Cinco de Drinko” and “Drinko de Mayo.”
Friday holidays mean more drunk driving
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), between 2011 and 2015, 270 people died in drunk-driving crashes during the Cinco de Mayo holiday period, and nearly a third of all traffic deaths on Cinco de Mayo involve an alcohol-impaired driver. The danger also extends beyond May 5th, culminating with record rates of DUIs into the morning hours of the following day.
This year Cinco de Mayo falls on Friday. NHTSA reports twice as many drunk driving crashes occur on weekends, and holidays tend to increase that trend. In addition, data from Alcohol Monitoring Systems shows that drinking violations by monitored, repeat DUI offenders are generally two to three times higher when a holiday falls on a weekend compared to when it takes place on a weekday.
Check out these safety tips to make sure your Cinco de Drinko ends with nothing worse than some embarrassing sombrero pictures on Facebook:
- Make plans for a sober ride home before you head out for the night. Even when people believe impaired driving is wrong, those beliefs can go out the window after a few drinks. Line up a designated driver, program a cab company’s number into your phone, sign up for a service like Uber or Lyft, or arrange to stay the night before you take the first sip.
- Understand how much you are really consuming. Margaritas account for nearly half of all drinks ordered on Cinco de Mayo, but many people don’t realize that the average margarita is equal to two to three “standard” drinks. Pace yourself and alternate alcoholic beverages with water.
- Leave your car at home. You’ll avoid traffic and DUI checkpoints and maybe even save on parking. Have everyone in your group use ride sharing TO your destination. Buddy up with friends who live nearby. If you don’t have your car, you won’t face the choice later—when you’ve been drinking—about the right thing to do.