Billions of green, but drink responsibly

Published 9:45 pm Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Pints of Guinness and shots of Jameson while listening to Flogging Molly and Dropkick Murphys, all while wearing green T-shirts, hats and whatever else you can find on your way out the door. St. Patrick’s Day is once again upon us and this year is shaping up to be the biggest and greenest one yet.

An annual survey conducted by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics asked 7,657 consumers about their St. Patrick’s Day plans from Feb. 2-13.

The survey found that more than 149 million U.S. adults plan to celebrate St. Patty’s this year, an approximate 10-million increase compared to last year. That’s likely because it’s the first time the holiday has fallen on a Saturday since 2012.

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But the survey also estimates that Americans will spend $5.9 billion on the holiday this year at nearly $40 per adult. That’s the highest level in the survey’s 14-year history.

“With winter hopefully winding down over the next few weeks, consumers are ready to start celebrating spring with St. Patrick’s Day,” National Retail Federation President and Chief Executive Officer Matthew Shay stated in a press release. “The holiday falls on a Saturday this year, so Americans will have more time to splurge a little as they get together with friends and loved ones for a day of festivities.”

Holiday plans vary from making a special dinner — about 31 percent in the survey — to a partying at a bar or restaurant, which accounted for 27 percent.

According to a report by WalletHub Senior Writer and Editor John Kiernan, the luck of the Irish will once again be poured into glasses aplenty. St. Patty’s is the fourth-most popular drinking day in the United States behind New Year’s Eve, Christmas and Independence Day.

About 153 percent more beer is sold on St. Patty’s than normal, and Guinness skyrockets in popularity with 819 percent more consumed on the day. Thirteen million pints of Guinness will be enjoyed worldwide, according to the report.

All of this revelry translates into big business for cities that accommodate these shenanigans.

“The economic benefits of St. Patrick’s Day are huge. In fact, in some places, it would be more accurate to talk of “St. Patrick’s Month,” Dermot Quinn, professor of history at Seton Hall University and author of “The Irish in New Jersey: Four Centuries of American Life,” told WalletHub.

“Think of the parade in New York City. With roughly 150,000 people taking part and upwards of 2 million spectators, you’re talking about hundreds of millions of dollars entering the local economy, from meals to drinks, hotel rooms, air fares, and tickets on the [Port of Authority of New York and New Jersey] from New Jersey to the [Long Island Rail Road] from Long Island.”

But when there’s drinking of this magnitude, there’s bound to be mistakes behind the wheel. There were reportedly 60 people killed in drunken-driving crashes on St. Patrick’s Day 2016, and 75 percent of fatal crashes involve a driver that’s consumed twice the legal limit.

In fact, every 36 minutes — when everyone is wearing green-tinted beer goggles — is the rate at which alcohol-induced car accidents claim lives during the holiday.

“Reducing alcohol-related difficulties on St. Patrick’s Day requires a few things,” according to Quinn. “A PR campaign beforehand reminding people that insobriety will ruin the day for oneself and for others; a stress on the family-friendly nature of the day; intelligent and thoughtful policing (i.e., nothing too heavy-handed); and an emphasis on self-policing (“friends don’t let friends drive drunk” — that sort of thing).”

My advice is to swallow the high surge prices for those Uber rides this Saturday and stay out of the driver’s seat if you plan to be one of the many celebrating with a beverage dyed green.