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For many of us, the traditional four-day weekend that celebrates Thanksgiving in the U.S. brings about more than turkey leftovers, football watching and afternoon naps. It’s also when many states begin a long-running campaign to halt the practice of holiday drinking and driving.

As police departments across the country are out en force this week in an attempt to stop people from driving under the influence, you might be asking why now or why such a strong showing? Well the timing is based on time-honored statistics. While few doubt that the DUI season ends with the perennial pairing of exuberant celebration and excessive drinking known as New Year’s Eve, many don’t realize that the period actually begins with an often deadlier date—the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. In fact, the date is so commonly associated with binge drinking (and subsequent driving) by people ready to enjoy their time off, that popular culture has put a twist on the term Black Friday and calls the day “Blackout Wednesday.”  In some cities like Chicago, bars see more business on Blackout Wednesday than New Year’s Eve, and other areas give it the dubious distinction of being the top drunk driving night of the year.

Knowing that there are other celebratory seasons throughout the year that don’t put so many alcohol-impaired individuals onto our roadways, you might wonder what it is about the winter holidays that bring out the worst in us, at least in respect to safe driving habits. Below are just a few of the reasons as to

Why our Roads Are More Dangerous During the Holidays:

  • More parties and festivities mean more people are apt to drink and drive
  • Those who only drink during special occasions have a lower tolerance and are more likely to be impaired by just a few drinks
  • Frequent drinkers can get carried away with the celebrations and go beyond their usual level of intoxication/impairment without realizing the effect
  • The holidays can be a busy time with most people in a hurry—a bad combination with unpredictable winter road conditions

With such factors contributing to a highly dangerous season for drivers, it’s no wonder that just a 5-plus-week period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s days can lead to an estimated 30 people per day losing their lives to the deadly combination of alcohol and driving—according to 2015 statistics. That’s three more people per day than the yearly average of 27 deaths-per-day for 2014, as stated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Of course, the NHTSA also states that the total number of fatalities from alcohol-impaired accidents has been on a steady decline over the past decade, with only 9,967 deaths in 2014 down from 13,582 in 2005. So how can we collectively avoid the upcoming checkpoints and police patrols while contributing to even fewer deaths for future holiday seasons? Experts say it’s as simple as following a few basic, common sense rules for

How You Can Ensure your Holidays Stay Safe

  • Just say no. Forget the alcohol and focus on spreading holiday cheer among friends and family.
  • Designate a driver. Just like Santa and Rudolph, we can all use a little help in getting home this holiday season.
  • Know your number. Be responsible with your drinking and know when to say when by sticking to a set number of alcoholic beverages.
  • Remember the reason for the season. It’s doubtful that you’d tell someone that the sole purpose of the holidays is to drink, so don’t tell yourself this lie to justify imbibing irresponsibly.

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