Photo: Mike Doran
People will be drinking and driving at Infineon Raceway on Thursday, March 17, all with the full blessing of the California Highway Patrol.

Infineon Raceway will host the 2nd St. Patrick’s Day Sobriety Challenge, which will feature a controlled wine and beer tasting demonstration that will graphically illustrate how alcohol consumption affects driving performance, even at levels below the legal limit (.08-percent).

The raceway is teaming with the CHP and the Jim Russell Racing Drivers School's Highway Survival Program on this event, which is being held purposely on St. Patrick’s Day, one of the top days each year in terms of alcohol consumption.

Consider these statistics:
  • In 2009, 37 percent of drivers and motorcyclists involved in fatal crashes on St. Patrick’s Day had a blood alcohol content of the legal limit or above, according to statistics by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
  • Additional NHTSA statistics show that in 2009 there were 103 crash fatalities on St. Patrick’s Day. Out of that number, 47 people were killed in traffic crashes that involved a drunk driver.
  • Over the last two years, five people were killed and 142 people were injured in 240 alcohol-involved collisions statewide on St. Patrick’s Day, according to the CHP.
  • In 2009, California’s traffic fatalities decreased 10.3 percent - reaching their lowest level since the federal government began recording traffic fatalities in 1975.
"Holidays such as St. Patrick's Day are a great opportunity to educate the public on the dangers of drinking and driving, and to emphasize the CHP's ongoing commitment to DUI enforcement,” said CHP Officer Jaret Paulson. “California has seen a reduction in DUI activities and we are hopeful that this is a reflection of greater public awareness of the consequences of Drinking and Driving and the true need for a Designated Driver.”
Participants will include local business owners, students from Sonoma State University, as well as other local professionals. In keeping with the St. Patrick’s Day theme, participants will be served Moylan’s beer from Moylan’s Brewery and Restaurant in Marin County.

After consuming a controlled amount of alcohol, testers will be taken through a series of field sobriety tests by CHP officers, including a Breathalyzer analysis, before being asked to get behind the wheel.

They will be joined in the cars by instructors from the Jim Russell Racing Drivers School, which is based at Infineon Raceway, for safety. The instructors will grade the testers on their ability to navigate three simple driving courses. Results will be shared with participants following the exercise.