WASHINGTON, D. C. (Tuesday, November 26, 2019) ––It is the time of the year when far too many Americans celebrate Thanksgiving in the words of that famous old Frank Sinatra torch song. You know, it’s the one that goes: “So set ‘em up Joe. I got a little story I think you should know.” Here is the story of the deadly effects of drinking and driving over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, when millions are on the roads, and especially on Thanksgiving Eve. It’s one of the biggest drinking nights and bar nights of the year. So much so, it has spawned names of its own in the cultural zeitgeist. Each name tells a story, such as “Blackout Wednesday,” “Drinksgiving,” and even “Danksgiving.” Ugh!
At any rate, Thanksgiving Eve is the night of the year that bars report “sales increases of 270 percent on beer and 114 percent on hard liquor,” according to a study conducted by Upserve. Is it any wonder, the Thanksgiving holiday period is one of the deadliest holidays on our roads? That is according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
“College students and post-graduates, surveys say, are most likely to indulge and imbibe during the pre-Thanksgiving Bacchanalia. Also dubbed ‘Whiskey Wednesday,’ and ‘Black Wednesday,’ the night before Thanksgiving is a big night for ‘drink until you drop’ revelry for college students back home for the holiday. Yet this night is ‘not a respecter of persons,’” said John B. Townsend II, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Manager of Public and Government Affairs. “Getting high on cannabis on Thanksgiving Eve and Thanksgiving Day is the latest craze. The expression ‘Danksgiving’ accentuates ‘the marijuana-infused Turkey Day treats’ served during the holiday. In fact, the word ‘Dank’ is a play on words referring ‘to very potent strains of marijuana.’”
It is like an episode of “Drunk History,” but potentially deadlier. It endangers everyone. As a result of all the bar hopping, driving drunk or high with THC in the bloodstream, and revelers playing drinking games at house parties on Thanksgiving Eve and the days surrounding Thanksgiving Day, tens of thousands of law enforcement officers across the United States will be on heightened alert for impaired drivers. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, “In 2017, there were 528 people killed in crashes across the country during the holiday weekend (6 p.m. November 22nd – 5:59 a.m. November 27th); about half of the passenger vehicle occupants who died weren’t wearing seat belts.” It’s the year’s deadliest weekend on the roads.
When family and friends gather around the Thanksgiving table the most popular alcoholic Thanksgiving beverages are red wine, white wine and beer. A survey on what a whole lot of people plan to drink with their Thanksgiving Day dinner is revealing. It shows: “the majority of people—around 63 percent—stick to wine as their Thanksgiving beverage of choice, with half responding that they serve red wine with dinner, compared to only 10% who serve white (the rest of the respondents presumably serve either liquor, beer, or non-alcoholic beverages),” explains Food & Wine magazine. But college-aged young people aren’t the only ones drinking to excess and then jumping behind the wheel. Avoid impairment by alcohol and drugs or both. “Blackout Wednesday” is another way of saying Thanksgiving Eve. Here are some sobering facts about Thanksgiving Eve and the Thanksgiving holiday period:
Between 2013 and 2017, more than 800 people died in alcohol-impaired-driving crashes during the Thanksgiving holiday period (6 p.m. Wednesday to 5:59 a.m. Monday), making it one of the deadliest holidays on our roads, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Twelve persons, including a Winchester Police Officer, lost their lives in fatal crashes on Virginia roadways during the 2018 Thanksgiving holiday period (compared to 14 persons in 2017 - the most since 2013). Alcohol was reportedly a “factor in at least two of the fatal crashes.”
During the 2018 Thanksgiving Day holiday weekend, Maryland State Police Troopers made 99 DUI arrests (compared to 109 in 2017), 21 controlled dangerous substance arrests, responded to 339 crashes, stopped 7,299 vehicles, issued 4,732 warnings, and recorded 22 criminal arrests.
A drunken driving arrest occurred every seven hours in the District of Columbia during fiscal 2018, according to the Washington Regional Alcohol Program (WRAP).
If you are home from college for the holiday, don’t be or become “a ride-or-die” chum with anyone at Thanksgiving. One-third of all fatalities during the Thanksgiving holiday period involved drunk drivers, as was the case during 2016.
Slightly more than half, or “51 percent, of drunk drivers say they drink more during the holidays compared to the rest of the year.”
After all, it is still “a sober Thanksgiving for most.” During Thanksgiving dinner, 21% will drink white wine, 20% will drink red wine, 21% will have a beer with their dinner, and 13% will drink liquor or cocktails. Yet 58% will have no alcoholic beverages with Thanksgiving dinner, according to a HuffPost/YouGovpoll.
Whatever you do, resist yielding to the temptation on Thanksgiving Eve of living out the torch song line that goes, “Make it one for my baby, and one more for the road.” During the holiday season and throughout the year, NHTSA, AAA and other traffic safety advocacy organizations also focus on educating marijuana users on the risks of driving high due to recent legalization efforts.
Although drunk-driving-related deaths have fallen over the past three decades, they still claim more than 10,000 lives per year.
In 2017, one in five children (14 and younger) who died in a crash, died in a crash involving alcohol, explains NHTSA.
Drivers with a BAC of .08 or higher involved in fatal crashes were seven times more likely to have a prior conviction for driving while impaired (DWI) than were drivers with no alcohol, cautions AAA.
If a friend or family member is impaired by alcohol or drugs and planning to drive, take their keys and help them make other arrangements to get home safely. Don’t worry about offending someone—they’ll thank you on or after Thanksgiving Eve or later.
Eschew getting behind the wheel while tipsy. Use public transportation, a taxi, a ride share service, or your community’s sober ride program to get home safely.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has created a listing of sober/safe ride programs across the country. Find one in your area, and save the number in your cell phone so you always have it on you, explains AAA. “Most people enjoy around 3 to 5 drinks over the course of the celebration (only 8% said they lose count of how many drinks they have), so if you plan to drink this Thanksgiving, doing so responsibly is the most festive choice,” cautions Food & Wine magazine.
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