Thanksgiving conjures up images of family gathered around the dinner table, as the turkey is carved, and the gravy is poured. As a day off of work for most, this holiday can involve wine with the meal, beer while watching a football game, and drinks with friends. As an unfortunate result, Thanksgiving also happens to be a peak time for accidents and arrests related to driving under the influence (DUI). As enforcement is stepped up across the state of Washington, it is important to stay safe and sober before taking to the roads.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Thanksgiving is one of the deadliest days for U.S. drivers. Between 1998 and 2008, the country averaged 572 deaths annually during the Thanksgiving holiday, which makes it the deadliest four-day period for drivers and passengers on U.S. roads.
The causes of the deadly crashes include the high number of people on the road, the increased driving distances as drivers visit far away family, the beginning of winter weather, tired drivers, nighttime driving, and of course, drivers impaired by alcohol or drugs. This dangerous driving season continues through New Years Day, another time for deadly crashes. The National Safety Council (NSC) has cited alcohol consumption as one of the major factors related to holiday accidents. New Years and Independence Day see an increase in the link between traffic fatalities and drinking and driving.
While highway deaths have declined over the years, according to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), there has been an increase in the proportion of deaths related to drunk driving during holiday periods. A new trend has been dubbed, “Blackout Wednesday,” where people who are home for the holidays go out to celebrate with friends and family the night before Thanksgiving, and then drive home inebriated. In 2010, the Thanksgiving holiday accounted for 40 percent of all highway deaths.
It should come as no surprise that during the holidays, roads and highways across the country will see an increase in law enforcement patrols, looking to get intoxicated drivers off the road. These enforcement campaigns begin as early as the Thanksgiving holiday. According to one police department, “Thanksgiving Eve, sometimes referred to as Black Wednesday, is unofficially considered the busiest bar night of the year. This means it's also the biggest night of the year for drunk driving.”
In 2012, more than 30,000 people were arrested in Washington state alone for driving under the influence. Last year, Seattle's Department of Transportation (SDOT) put the word out that there would be extra DUI patrols throughout the Thanksgiving holiday. Police Departments, the Washington State Patrol and other law enforcement agencies had extra officers patrolling the streets from Wednesday evening through Monday evening. This year is expected to be no different.
Stepped up traffic enforcement for DUIs will affect drivers from coast to coast, to ensure safe driving for the public. The SDOT's press release reminds everyone to plan ahead if you plan to drink. If you are impaired, take a bus, a cab, or sober up before driving.