The day of frenzied shopping that follows Thanksgiving is commonly referred to as Black Friday. But, in recent years, some have started referring to the night before Thanksgiving as ‘Blackout Wednesday’ or ‘Drinksgiving’ because of the heavy alcohol consumption or binge drinking done by college students and others, home for the holiday and reuniting with friends and family at bars, restaurants or homes.
According to the Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT), the day before Thanksgiving sees more impairment-related crashes than any other day of the year. Those driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs endanger not only themselves, but also others they share the road with – such as their passengers, other motorists and their passengers, bicyclists and pedestrians.
“While ‘Blackout Wednesday’ or ‘Drinksgiving’ may be clever ‘buzz’ words, there’s nothing clever about being buzzed or drunk and getting behind the wheel,” said Shawn Steward, spokesman for AAA Kansas. “Drivers also need to remember that prescription, over-the-counter medications and illegal drugs can impair the ability to drive safely, as well. Combining any of these drugs with alcohol can increase the impairment factor more.”
From 2012 to 2016, more than 800 people died nationwide in alcohol-impaired-driving crashes during the Thanksgiving holiday period (6:00 p.m. Wednesday to 5:59 a.m. Monday), making it the deadliest holiday on our roads, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
During that same period in Kansas (2012-2016), over the 5-day Thanksgiving holiday, there were 188 alcohol-related crashes, resulting in 109 injuries and four fatalities.
On average, across Kansas, three persons are injured every day, and one person is killed every four days in alcohol/drug-related crashes. And the crashes tend to be more severe. Vehicle occupants in alcohol- or other drug-related crashes are more than 2.5 times more likely to be injured or killed than those involved in crashes where alcohol or other drugs were not a factor.
Each week across Kansas, more than 250 drivers are arrested for DUI (Driving Under the Influence). A DUI conviction will result in jail time, the suspension or revocation of driver’s license, a fine of $500 to $2,500, participation in an alcohol or other drug treatment program and, where alcohol is cited as a contributing factor, the purchase and installation of an ignition interlock device by the offender. This device requires the offender to blow into a device that measures blood alcohol concentration prior to starting the car. It’s embarrassing and a hassle.
The Kansas Highway Patrol, along with local law enforcement, will be increasing patrols to foster safe roadways during the busy Thanksgiving holiday travel week, with a special eye out for impaired drivers.
AAA Kansas is reminding anyone headed out Wednesday night or throughout the Thanksgiving holiday weekend and planning to drink:
- Buzzed driving is drunk driving. Don’t risk it.
- Make a plan ahead of time to have a sober, designated driver
- If you don’t have a designated driver, call a friend or family member, taxi or car share service such as Uber or Lyft to get you home safely
- Never let family or friends drive if they have had too much alcohol to drink
- If you see a drunk driver on the road, contact law enforcement
“It is never OK to get behind the wheel of a vehicle when you are buzzed, drunk or otherwise impaired,” AAA Kansas’ Steward reiterated. “The risk of injury or death for yourself, passengers and others on the roads is not worth it, especially when there are other ways to get home safely. AAA Kansas wants everyone to safely enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday with their friends and family and not have to deal with a tragedy caused by impaired driving.”