By Robert Szostek
U.S. Army Europe Office of the Provost Marshal Public Affairs Office
Whether the locals call it Carnaval, Carnevale, Fasching, Fasnacht or Vastenavond, carnival in Europe is a time when people tend to consume more beer, wine and liquor than usual.
Officials at the U.S. Army Europe Office of the Provost Marshal want to remind members of the U.S. forces community that host nation and military police are well aware that drinking increases during this period (Feb. 27 through March 4) and will increase their traffic checkpoints to catch drunk drivers.
“Drinking is a major risk factor that drivers should keep in mind during the carnival period,” said Sgt. Maj. Michael P. Cieslewski, USAREUR’s provost sergeant major, noting that European laws regarding drinking and driving are generally stricter than American laws.
OPM officials said the easiest way to remember the difference is that two drinks are going to put a person of average build at or above the legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit. Those who like to travel around Europe should be aware of the specific BAC concentration limits for their destinations — in some countries the limit is 0.0.
Cieslewski advises people to think about how they will get home from their carnival event before they leave home. “Designated drivers, unit-sponsored rides, taxis and public transportation are all good ways to get home safely,” he said.
Cieslewski also warns people to be careful when accepting drinks from strangers or leaving their drinks unattended during carnival. The Baden-Württemberg State Investigation Bureau in Germany registered numerous incidents last year when so-called “knockout drops” were mixed into the drinks of unsuspecting victims in discos, pubs and at parties to render them powerless. Because many people celebrate carnival with fewer personal reservations, Cieslewski said, it is easy for offenders to look for victims and spike their drinks during this time.
Pickpockets are a big problem at major events such as carnival, the sergeant major added. He said it’s a good idea for people to carry only as much money as they actually need, and to keep cell phones, money and keys with them at all times, safely tucked away in an inside pocket.