The Truth about Alcohol & Mardi Gras
Teens can have fun & stay safe during the most dangerous holiday in the U.S.
When teens think of Mardi Gras, they often think of breast bearing women, excessive public drinking, dancing, and fighting and out of control behavior on Bourbon Street. And between the fishbowl hurricanes and giant tankards of mudslide they might be on to something.
Alcohol is a big of a part of the two week period that marks Mardi Gras. And even though it’s a Catholic carnival, it still translates to “farewell to the flesh”, which means teens are bound to get a little out of hand during this period of feasting and revelry before Lent. When you figure in 50 parades, more than 301 miles of parade route and 1.2 million attendees it’s no wonder alcohol fuels the fun—from the French Quarter to the Garden District.
However, there are rules and laws that must be followed, and failure to do so could have you crying over your doubloons (the festive coins thrown out at revelers). Remember, in addition to the fun, Mardi Gras ranks as one of the most dangerous holidays in the United States for motorist collisions. In terms of most vehicular teen deaths and car crash injuries, the duration of Mardi Gras is the deadliest of the eight holidays. Just look at the car accident statistics for teenagers in the U.S (between 2001 and 2007):
• Car crashes are the leading cause of teen deaths
• Teens between the ages of 16 and 19 are 4x more likely to get into accidents than adults
• That’s 33,027 fatal teen crashes compared to only 19,886 fatal adult crashes
• And, the younger they are; the more likely teens are to be involved in an auto collision
• Teens who drink and drive are 12x more likely to be killed compared to sober teen drivers
So then how does a teenager ensure a good time at Mardi Gras without injury to body and soul? Let’s start by giving you the truth on New Orleans laws and city regulations when it comes to drinking and driving during Mardi Gras, as well as debunking some of the more popular Mardi Gras myths…
The Open Container Law - The trickiest myths regarding Mardi Gras revolve around the city’s Open Container Law. Yes, it’s true; it’s perfectly legal to carry an open container of alcohol within the city streets. However, the drinking age is 21 as it is everywhere else in the U.S., and it’s strictly enforced. It’s also strictly forbidden to have an open container of alcohol in your car if you are drinking it and driving a vehicle.
Drive-thru drinking - Hankering for a Mardi Gras daiquiri or mudslide while taking a drive? Just pull up to a “drive thru” and pour yourself a boozey slushy. You can get a Baskin-Robins array of flavors in a Styrofoam tankard at one of the roadside stands where drinks like a white Russian, long island ice tea, Red Bull and vodka, Cajun heat and many flavored margaritas are sold. However, you can’t just drive away sucking on that straw. A loophole in the open container law means as long as a straw hasn’t pierced the lid you're free to drive on.
Here are some additional rules to abide by at Mardi Gras. Out-of-towners need to be especially vigil as city police won’t hesitate to write you a ticket on the following infractions:
Driving under the influence – Basic common sense reigns in New Orleans just as much as everywhere else in the U.S. When it comes to DUI / DWI, if you’re drunk, please don’t drive or you’ll face an increased, minimum 15-day jail sentence. Those who refuse a blood alcohol test will face a one-year license suspension.
Drinks can’t be in glass containers - Glass breaks…end of story. And when it does, it causes a whole bunch of danger on the street, especially when you throw in a parade and a ton of drunken tourists.
Be wary of bars selling drinks glass bottles – If you buy a beer in a bottle, you must stay on the premises and finish your drink before you leave. Many bars will do this to keep you in their establishment for as long as they can.
Boozing it up in parking areas - Many areas of the city prohibit drinking alcohol all together in parking lots. Be sure to read the signs before you take a traveler to your car.
Urinating in public – A common law in most cities, but a fair mention here considering alcohol is involved. If you are drinking during Mardi Gras, remember that the amount of alcohol you consume is directly related to the number of times you’re going to have to pee—and public bathrooms are few and far between. Don’t get caught with your pants down.
Don’t be a public nuisance – Disorderly and loud behavior isn’t tolerated by the New Orleans police.
Be wary of your surroundings - Do not jump in front of a float to snag a bead, cup, or doubloon. Remember, that float weighs several tons and can crush you. It’s also a good rule of thumb to step on doubloons before picking them up or your hand might be the one stepped on by another eager parade go-er.
Public nudity – Anything doesn’t go in New Orleans, and you’ll really only see flashing breasts in the French Quarter. Parents can shield young ones from nakedness just about anywhere, but in the French Quarter. And, if New Orleans Police Department catches you displaying your goods outside of that area, you’ll be arrested.
Bio: Leslie worked as a legal secretary at a personal injury law firm for many years before making the transition to a full-time mom and wife. Leslie loves nature and uses it as a source of inspiration for her writing. She divides her time between her family and her writing, which focuses mainly on her knowledge of law. Leslie is currently looking for freelance work, and can be contacted at LeslieEKrick@gmail.com.